Will Cortana for consumer survive 2018

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I am regularly struck by the paucity of Microsoft in their communication. It almost requires a translation into English. They last year a blog telling us about their “partnership” with Spotify was really about closing down Groove.

What does this communication technique tell us about the focus on AI versus actual things that are happening.

Cortana, for example, is only really on the PC. For most users it’s just a search box. In the USA Cortana has a wide range of features and there is even the Invoke speaker. For some countries, like the UK, there is a limited Cortana service and for most of the rest of the world it’s not supported. 

The end of Groove means Cortana can’t even listen and identify music any more. So its less functional. Microsoft used to say that Gmail meant you had been “Scroogled” so has the consumer been “Grooved”?

If the big bet is on AI then why doesn’t it work in most places? Why is it getting less functional or at best barely usable.

Microsoft is partnering with Amazon and their Alexa assistant. Alexa is globally available and attached to many consumer products provided by Amazon. It has had a year to perfect the smart speaker market and now has huge developer support in skills.

I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to see Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 S eventually having Alexa as the default assistant with Cortana relegated to being a business AI powering Office 365. Amazon would get access to consumer desktop operating systems to sell music, tv, prime membership and the like. Microsoft could then concentrate on their core enterprise market.

AI might be a Microsoft priority but Cortana for consumer may be dead shortly.

Comments (32)

32 responses to “Will Cortana for consumer survive 2018”

  1. Jules Wombat

    Unfortunately Microsoft we too slow in getting Cortana globally established. [Despite Google and Apple not having localisation issues] so for most people it became irrelevant. And without users Cortana failed, and hence Microsoft AI services. As I posted last week, Microsoft should simply adopt Google Now as its default assistant, as we can all see Microsoft dumping Cortana in 2019.

    In a similar vein I compared Tensor Flow vs Microsoft CNTK for some CIFAR10 benchmark image recognition tasks, and despite Microsoft claims, CNTK remains 15% slower than Tensorflow, so no one is going to adopt the Microsoft ML AI core technology any time soon.

  2. wright_is

    That is the problem, from my perspective. I have it on my desktop (German), but it isn't available on my Android phone.

    I also found the voice recognition on Windows Phone 8 better than Cortana or Google Assistant. I could use it to start playing podcasts or Audible books, neither Cortana nor Google Assistant seem to be able to do that - at least it isn't obvious how you would do it, telling them to play podcast, play podcast by name, start the podcast app, start Audible or play a book or play a book by name doesn't seem to work in either English or German with Cortana or Google Assistant.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to wright_is:

      I haven't researched this, but I do seem to recall WP8 having some voice-based capabilities that disappeared when Microsoft replaced TellMe with Cortana.

      • wright_is

        In reply to Chris_Kez:

        Yes, in some ways, Cortana was a step backwards on Windows Mobile 10.

        My WP8 devices would read me SMS and let me reply verbally, in the car, I could tell it to play an Audio book with Audible or to play a podcast. With Cortana and Google Assistent, I haven't found a way to do any of that.

        In the car, the phone has gone from offering to read me the incoming messages to beeping, a real step forwards! ;-S

        And if I tell Cortana or Google Assistant to play a book with Audible, they just open a search site for Audible...

  3. PurpleDisciple

    It's dead Jim.


    I've tried using Cortana but it's completely limited in its scope, because it's not on mobile where it'll actually be useful (well, Cortana won't be but you know what I mean). You might counter with "well, Cortana is on Android / iOS" but ask yourself the question, who actually uses them but sysadmin types who're lock, stock and barrel in an MS ecosystem?


    As we see MS reduced to being an app writer and a relatively simplistic back-end provider, I can see MS being reduced in the AI front-end game to being an Alexa skill and then losing out more rapidly due to the lack of training datasets - you lose native access to consumer datasets, you lose critical business AI capabilities.


    Everything comes back to mobile now, and by extension Microsoft is effed.

  4. matsan

    Why on earth would Cortana survive as a business-only product?!?

    Even smaller market and it will most likely have the same artificial regional limitations.

  5. John Scott

    I've basically ignored Cortana even in Windows 10. Have never even tried it, but then again I was all in with Siri for a while but that grew tiring also. My Wife like's Alexa with Amazon Echo uses it in her classroom. It has its usefulness but for me they are all pretty dumb and more of a noveilty then being a really good assistant. I read Amazon might begin pushing product ads in Alexa. Not surprised. Cortana is another Microsoft dud because they failed at offering it early on limited platforms. This just never works.

  6. Dan

    It can't be you've been Grooved, it will forever be you've been Kin'd!

  7. Usman

    https://blogs.windows.com/buildingapps/2018/01/09/cortana-coming-devices-2018-devices-sdk-new-reference-designs/


    When you're releasing SDKs for OEMs in 2018 and there's only one OEM product with cortana for the entirety of 2017, late is a HUGE understatement

  8. red.radar

    I imagine the partnership with Amazon's Alexa had a lot to do with this. I bet the strategy is to slowly sunset Cortana infavor of Alexa. In return. Microsoft will run Amazon's back end services for search. And Alexa will pick up more information and AI capability to compete with Google.


    Unless Microsoft dumps a lot of effort into a home speaker and ecosystem I don't see them catching up.


    Its a shame because if they had forsight to not make the PC the anchor point for cortana, but build a speaker then this could have been their market to own and their Renaissance.




  9. Bats

    I am looking over my RSS newsfeeds and there is so much Google Assistant powered devices by third parties, like Lenovo and JBL. I am getting absolutely NO NEWS of any product being powered by Cortana at all. Is it already dead?


    Also to Ponsaelius, I think the term "SCROOVED" is the better term. At least Gmail was free. People paid for Groove and got Scrooved in the end.


  10. Chris_Kez

    My first thought was that Cortana will hang on for another year or two in a zombie state, kind of like Windows Phone. But they can probably get it out of market pretty fast since it really only exists in software (outside of some tiny number of Invoke speakers). Maybe as soon as spring 2019 with whatever Windows update comes at that time.

    I can only hope that in ten years we'll get a well-researched insider look at how Microsoft stumbled so badly with Cortana. It strains credulity to think they couldn't have delivered an Echo competitor within a few months of Amazon's announcement. So if it wasn't a technological limitation, it had to be a strategic decision.

  11. Bats

    It's doubtful that Cortana will survive the Windows 10 invasion from Amazon. Alexa is pretty much everywhere.Also if Amazon Alexa can do it, so can Google.

    Alexa just has to improve from an AI standpoint. That's because Alexa interaction is somewhat robotic as opposed to Google Assistant, where it seems more natural and thus more conversational.

    With Amazon Alexa soon to be on Windows Desktops, this spells doom for Cortana,...BIG TIME. Who is going to want to use Cortana now?

    Google may go back to the Windows Desktop Game and enable The Assistant for it. Google doesn't need to integrate into Windows for The Assistant to take over Windows. Rather, it can do that through it extremely popular browser, like it did before. For Chrome useres, who let the browser remain "open" despite it actually being closed...I would imagine can summon the Assistant by saying "Hey Google." A few years ago, one could just go to Google Search and say "Ok Google..." and Google Now would respond.

    The possibilities...the possibilities!

    Amazon vs Google in this "war" is like a heavyweight prize fight that will never end.

    Microsoft could've taken part in this war, but from what i have read, the Invoke product is highly unpopular and like Windows phone, doesn't do much. Not just that, but I don't think you can buy stuff with Invoke or anything Cortana like Amazon and Google. Google may not have Amazon's warehouses of products, but they partnered with Walmart, Target, etc... so buying stuff through Google is easy. Microsoft? Zip. Zilch. Nada.

    So here is what's going to happen. The heavyweight prize fight between Amazon and Google will go from where they currently are now, to Microsoft's own backyard. I think they'll fight it out there and Microsoft will just....watch.

    • yaddamaster

      In reply to Bats: I hear what you're saying but I gotta confess that I just don't understand why people are buying into the vaporware that is Alexa on PC's. It's all over because Amazon is selling a bunch of Alexa-integrated speakers??

      I tried using Alexa on my Android phone - it sucks. Why do I need to open a shopping app just to use a personal assistant? If anything, Alex should be a search first app that can search for products if you ask it to. But as it stands right now, Alexa doesn't exist for the PC, and is half-baked on Android. I've never used Alexa outside of an Amazon store so I don't know. Just one example from the Android shopping app - if I say "Alexa, make a shopping list" and then "Alex, add milk to my shopping list". Alexa will dutifully create a shopping list and add milk to said list. When I ask for the list Alexa will tell me what's on it. But no where that I can find is there an actual printout of that list that I can manually add multiple items to, delete, etc.

      All of that is there with Cortana. If I tell my Invoke to create a list - voia, it appears on Cortana on my desktop - or my android phone. I can modify that list, delete, etc. Notifications, etc.

      It appears to me that Alexa does stuff. Cortana's strength seems to be integration. Integration is what I value more than automating a light bulb. I dunno, I just don't get it.

      ZDNet's home page headline is "Welcome to CES 2018 also known as Microsoft Cortana's funeral". I hope MS has a quick retort.


  12. yaddamaster

    We bought an Invoke for Christmas and the wife is actually using it for simple things like grocery lists and everyone uses it for music, checking the family calendar, weather, etc.


    I don't care if there are 25,000 Alexa skills or not. That actually seems a bit ridiculous to me if 24,000 are crap. Even 1,000 "skills" seems like a ridiculous amount to wade through.


    The Invoke was only $99 and makes a pretty good speaker. It's not Sonos but it's really good for the smaller room we have it in. But I don't want to start using Cortana lists and other stuff only to have it orphaned. Which seems increasingly likely.


    I remember when the Microsoft anti-trust case was a big deal and people were arguing that Microsoft should be broken up. Turns out that likely would have been the best thing for Microsoft in the consumer space because they simply didn't have the ability to focus on both business AND consumer.

    • gregsedwards

      I don't care if there are 25,000 Alexa skills or not. That actually seems a bit ridiculous to me if 24,000 are crap. Even 1,000 "skills" seems like a ridiculous amount to wade through.


      I recall saying the exact same thing about first my Windows phone in reference to everyone else using iPhone apps.

  13. Tony Barrett

    this is just another step towards MS officially abandoning the consumer market entirely as they skip towards an enterprise only cloud service company. Everyone else knows MS have lost the consumer market with zero hope of recovery - only MS themselves won't admit it.

  14. Hassan Timité

    Microsoft is beyond disappointing. Even for services they are unable to get the things right ?

    Living in a country where Cortana has never worked properly, my answer is no Cortana for consumer,or even for enterprises, will not survive and it is better that it dies sooner than later.

  15. rameshthanikodi

    Honestly? I think right now Alexa is emerging as the winner, as the THE voice assistant with the strongest home automation tie-ins. Not only has Cortana missed the boat, but so has Siri. Google is putting up a good fight, but from what I can tell, the Alexa smart home is alot more closer to reality than the Google smart home.


    Also, Amazon just announced that they're bringing Alexa to Windows - even paying OEMs to have it preinstalled on laptops. IMO that pretty much seals the fate of Cortana, and especially for Google, because Google is extremely stubborn towards Windows, they will never release a Google Assistant app for Windows. Alexa will be the assistant that is and works truly everywhere. Google very clearly will not release any app for Windows except for a web browser - and then make users use the web browser to access every single Google product.

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      Don't write off Google yet. Google Assistant is going to be massive - and everywhere. Not just 'smart speakers'. It will be an AI duopoly between Amazon and Google, but I can see Google beating Amazon at their own game eventually.

      • rameshthanikodi

        In reply to ghostrider:

        Obviously google's knowledge graph and natural language processing are clear advantages. But to me, it's clear that people want to use their assistant for home automation stuff. It's cool that you can ask a smart speaker about the population of Kyrgyzstan, but most of the time, we just want to turn the damn lights on.

        • Jules Wombat

          In reply to FalseAgent:

          I doubt that many people are interested in the home automation aspects, that is a very narrow, first world niche. Possbily smart meter eco technology. Simply put, global users just want effective daily lives informaiton support (e.g. reliable commute information) .

          If Microsoft could demonstrate clear productivity improvements, then their Office Graph could become adopted by business.

  16. robincapper

    Agree, Cortana may be dead before arrival here in New Zealand

  17. seapea

    well, this article would seem to indicate that Cortana is being moved out -

    www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-moving-cortana-out-search-and-action-center-windows-10


    How many consumer users even know what Action Center is , much less to look there for Cortana in the future.


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