Joining the world of ambient computing


As a user of Microsoft products and services I am interested in what Satya Nadella says as CEO and how it might influence my personal technology decisions.

Shortly after becoming CEO he said that Microsoft would be producing 3 mobile phones a year; one for consumers, one for business and a premium flagship model. he also said his three target product areas were AI, virtual reality and quantum computing. As a consumer I cant yet purchase a quantum computer and I saw my main VR opportunity as integration with Xbox One. This left AI and the idea of ambient computing.

With the demise of the mobile platform after announcing his strategy using AI with Cortana become more challenging for me as a consumer. Being in the UK didn’t help either. For Microsoft you find English, outside the US, is a foreign language. Cortana has always been less functional than in the USA. Microsoft’s deep learning has problems with non-US users at many levels. However, according to Nadella, this was a key product area.

The announcement of the Invoke speaker meant that I could have the Cortana interface in my home and perhaps it was going to deliver on that promise. Months later you could by the speaker in the USA at a huge discount and it was pronounced dead. The rest of the world never even saw it.

In the meantime Amazon had released two generations of smart speakers, thousands of programmable skills and, when recently I wanted to buy a smart thermostat for my house none of the devices offered Cortana integration. So today I have Alexa everywhere. Even my TV streaming device can be voiced controlled. Back in 2013 Microsoft’s TV play was buy an Xbox One and watch TV on that. Everyone else offered a £30 usb device.

If mobile is the two horse race between IOS and Android then ambient computing is a two horse race between Alexa and Google Assistant. It’s not even because Microsoft has bad products. They actually have no products people can buy.

The new Microsoft is highly profitable. There is no doubt about that. However, if you are a user of technology in the home then Microsoft has opted out. If you don’t live in the USA then Microsoft has opted out to provide just a bare bones range of products and services mainly orientated to legacy systems.

Microsoft as an enterprise company and business company has never looked so healthy. For everything else it’s not a player. Not only has Apple envy gone but even a sense of competition seems to have been diluted.

As a consumer Microsoft is no longer my first choice. Most every other company is a better choice.

Comments (4)

4 responses to “Joining the world of ambient computing”

  1. jchampeau

    It seems to me that Microsoft's consumer play has more to do with providing the back-end platform/infrastructure (via Azure, etc.) to support the companies whose names you see on the products and services you buy and use. So it's not that Microsoft isn't a player, it's that they won't/don't/can't make products consumers want to buy, but they make the products consumers do want to buy work. Recently publicized (on this site) examples include the GLAS thermostat and BMW voice assistant.

  2. Tony Barrett

    MS have dipped their toes into the consumers space over the years. The products themselves are generally ok - to a degree, but the marketing, support and commitment from MS themselves has been appalling. I mean really, really bad. No wonder consumers have pretty much abandoned MS, and MS have abandoned the consumer. It's pretty obvious that MS don't understand the consumer space (bar Xbox, but even their execution there has been poor), which is why Microsoft's journey to the cloud is really about the enterprise - a market they still have a stranglehold grip on, but only because the enterprise are too scared to change at this time.

    At this stage, I wouldn't even recommend the consumer consider MS for anything. Not only are their services more expensive, but their much more unreliable and inflexible. I'd say it's only a matter of time before Windows starts to fade rapidly in the consumer space - most just don't need it anymore.

  3. cadrethree

    Nadella is Microsoft's most sophisticated AI ever created. ?. He has a way of making complicated stuff sound even more complicated, IMHO. Not sure you're going to get much but Azure good, legacy bad from him. Even if you could hijack Google home and link everything to Microsoft's services, would you? Or would you just deploy Google home and Alexa and run through their services? Run both myself and it's fine. Don't miss Microsoft. Why does the world need a third OS like Windows?

    And Microsoft's financials looked off to me.

  4. jules_wombat

    Why do you keep flogging a dead horse ?

    This has been pretty obvious for three + years now. Just accept that Microsoft is, and never will be, relevant in consumer compute and/or devices. You still have consumer choices with Google, Amazon, and Apple. Time to move on, and stop dwelling on the past, everyone else has, including Microsoft.