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.

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