Personal Assistant(s)


The day I saw Cortana demonstrated on Windowsphone back in 2012(ish) at a Microsoft conference I was all in. It took a long while to arrive on my Lumia in the UK and was less functional than the demo but it had promise. This was the most personal of phones with the most personal of assistants.

I looked forward to having an ever improving experience, integration of the assistant with the services I use and the science fiction possibility of voice becoming a legitimate interface. In the current jargon – ambient computing. 

Jumping forward to 2019 I find the picture has changed a lot. The promise of Cortana has evaporated as quickly as Satya Nadella’s commitment to three Windowsphones per year. Cortana never really reached full functionality in the UK. In fact it now answers fewer queries than four years ago. I doesn’t really tell me about my parcel deliveries, doesn’t work with mapping very well, knows little about public transport in the UK. As an “app” on my Android device it needs remapping to home screen but then Google Assistant has a problem. For it is the assistant that answers many of my queries on the move and integrates well with Android services. This is to be expected of course but now means two assistants are on my phone.

At home the Amazon Alexa is my assistant of choice. It integrates with my music, news and has thousands of skills that allow me to listen to podcasts just by talking to my obedient friend. The Amazon Echo became my friend because there was no Microsoft offering in that category. However, we were promised a Cortana skill to allow me integration with the Microsoft services I use. That isn’t going well in Britain. Not a hint of Alexa being friends with Cortana so I can use my Echo as a Cortana speaker. Although I understand that the USA has this.

Cortana is rapidly being deprecated in my personal use of Microsoft Services. It’s perhaps the inevitable consequence of Microsoft abandonment of consumers. As their consumer ambitions wither on the vine the consumers transition to other products that makes Microsoft look at their telemetry and discount the consumer market. The circle of deprecation, diminished use followed by deprecation continues. 

The question in my mind is should I really start thinking as a consumer and move to the fully supported environment of Google Services. After decades of choosing Microsoft first it’s somewhat dispiriting the question is now seriously coming to my mind. 

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