PC Makers are Embracing Alexa

Posted on May 21, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Smart Home, Windows 10 with 42 Comments

PC Makers are Embracing Alexa

Acer announced this morning that it is the first to ship notebook PCs preinstalled with Amazon Alexa. It won’t be the last.

“We’re delighted to work with Acer to bring Alexa to customers in new ways,” Amazon Alexa vice president Steve Rabuchin says. “We believe customers should be able to interact with Alexa wherever they might need her, including from their PCs, in order to take advantage of the simplicity of voice control.”

That says a lot, I think, about one of Microsoft’s most recent failures. After all, Windows 10 PCs already ship with voice control in the form of Cortana. But that is, perhaps, something that many consumers would never even notice: Cortana usage and capabilities lack far behind those of the digital personal assistant market leaders, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. And a PC will work as a secondary device, when it comes to voice control, behind smartphones and even smart speakers.

Acer notes that its customers will be able to ask Alexa about the weather, make additions to their calendars, create lists, answer questions, and play favorite music, podcasts, and audiobooks. You know, all the types of things they’re doing today on Alexa-powered smart speakers.

Which raises an interesting point: As Amazon recently noted, it’s seeing new demographics, like older people and country music fans, embrace Alexa. These are the types of users who would still use PCs, so adding Alexa to those devices makes some sense.

As for the PCs, Alexa will be available on several models of the Acer Spin 3 and Spin 5 lines starting this week. But the firm intends to roll out this technology across its entire notebook PC portfolio, and quickly. Alexa will be pre-installed on the Acer Nitro 5 Spin convertible gaming notebook line, which arrives next month. And it will be available on select Aspire, Switch and Swift notebooks, and Aspire all-in-one PCs, over the next few weeks.

As noted, Acer isn’t alone: HP has also announced plans to add Alexa to its PCs, as have ASUS and Lenovo. Amazon announced Alexa for PC back in January, and if you’re not familiar with how that works, Brad has a nice hands-on write-up.


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Comments (42)

42 responses to “PC Makers are Embracing Alexa”

  1. goodbar

    Nice, I also just noticed that I can set Alexa as my Device Assistant on my Galaxy. That wasn't an option a few months ago.

  2. Mark from CO


    To follow on my post regarding the AI Startup buy. Not so long ago Cortana was right there with the very best personal assistants. No other way around to say this, but a colossal failure on Microsoft's part. Failure in mobile, failure in personal assistants, failure in ambient computing, and failure in speech AI. Not all of this can be shifted to Steve Ballmer. The latter failures are Satya Nadella's. Where is Microsoft really leading and pushing the leading edge of technology?

  3. fbman

    Cortanas failure was kinda predicted, Cortana was released to so few markets.. it would never gain traction. MS still think the USA is the entire market, and that small thinking will cause your products to fail as the rest of the world will use the competitors product and that will quickly become a standard.

    Google and Amazon have embraced the world market, Microsoft still have not. However this a not gaurantee to success, as shown by the chrome book, a success in the US and flop everywhere else.

    • Jorge Garcia

      In reply to fbman:

      I really raise an eyebrow at those claims that Chromebooks are not "taking off" Worldwide. If they aren't, it's mostly because of the inertia of Windows. If Google plays their cards right they can completely obliterate Windows from the home and school. If they play their cards wrong, it will just take them longer.

      • fbman

        In reply to JG1170:

        One of the reasons chromebooks are not taking off worldwide, is bandwidth and lack of connectivity,

        In the develping world, internet is expensive and to run a device that relies on the cloud will not work. So really the world is not ready for such a device

        I live in South Africa, must of our internet users rely on prepaid mobile solutions as their primary internet connection. Must of them buy data packages from 5 meg (Yes 5 Meg), so for them the internet stops at Facebook, twitter and what-app. These data packages are not cheap in comparision to what they are paid, so bandwidth is limited for most people.

  4. Rickard Eriksson

    So more useless addons to uninstall then. Voice assistants are about as useful as Vistas widgets at this point.

  5. rameshthanikodi

    Just like how people want to "uninstall Cortana" on their PCs, they would want to uninstall this too. I don't think people are as interested in voice assistants as the industry is trying to suggest.

  6. nys

    I think it's a lost cause the lack of adhesion to many Microsoft services (edge, Cortana...) is linked, beyond the gaps of these different services, to the fact that a typical user, paradoxically, will always have the impression that using a microsoft pre-installed service (edge, Cortana, OneDrive...) will always be inferior to a product developed elsewhere that he will install himself or not.

  7. mjw149

    I understand that it's a niche business, but I'm baffled that MS can make a Surface dial and not a simple affordable Cortana speaker. This is the company that made affordable, solid mice for decades, which was a far better served market.

    They aren't focused enough to claim that this isn't a core operation. It's search, it's voice control, it's AI, it's cloud computing, it's an ambient OS! That's core.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to mjw149: You don't think $100 for the Invoke is affordable? It's not Dot or G-mini territory, but it is right there with the next step up of either, and sounds better than either at that price. I have only one Invoke, mostly because I don't see a future for it or other Cortana based similar products. It's one of a kind, not well supported (Cortana 'skills' need a lot of work), and not marketed at all.
      Not sure why MS would make such a device in the first place. They clearly don't believe in the product/concept for consumers. They are a business focused company. Cortana belongs in the conference room. /S

    • roastedwookie

      In reply to mjw149:

      It won't sell anyway because both Google Assistant and Alexa are far ahead in smartspeakers. Very few trust their $$ into another beta 99% FAILED ms supported product. We've been burned enough so far...The Invoke is all times cheap and yet does not sell because no one gives a damn F about a speaker having a JUNK platform behind. It does have a very good speaker inside, the sound quality is good...but the platform behind it is a complete joke.

  8. Winner

    When all you do is chase the leaders, you will never BE the leader.

  9. nbplopes

    Very, very few people will buy a PC based on how well it supports Alexa or Google Assistant If anyone.

    At least for now.

    Amazon is doing this to sell you more products in their massive store.

    Google is doing this to sell you nore Ads.

    Apple is doing this to sell more devices, apps and content.

    Microsoft is doing this to keep selling Windows licenses. Office apps and IT infrastructure.

    Which angle will prove more useful to the end user will win.

  10. Scott8846

    Never used Alexa myself, I heard that, along with Google's assistant, it is very good at what it does. It's great for the users, no doubt, but the only problem I have with that is... that Amazon track records regarding privacy is in no way better than Google's.

    It's even worse in a way since they don't collect information for others (like Google does), they do it all for themselves since they are themselves seller of services and goods.

    So everything they can learn about their users they will learn and use it to sells them everything they can.

    With Amazon's rapid growth in recent years, I don't feel that safe to let them know so much about me.

    I guess I'm not the only one who noticed they are slowly positioning themselves as the sole provider of everything. TV, music, diapers (actually, goods in general), foods, Cloud, personal assistant, etc.

    Soon there could be no reasons to buy anything anywhere but Amazon. And on top of that they will know their costumers so well as to make sure they buy even more.

    Brilliant and also terrifying.

    What do you think their next steps will be?

  11. Daekar

    *sigh* Yet another thing to uninstall when getting a new PC...

  12. jimchamplin

    I don't fully grok the connection between country music fans and PC use :)

    I am curious to know if/when the Alexa application will be available to install.

    • Daekar

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      I was wondering about that too. Most of the country music fans I know have modern smartphones, PCs, or have gone post-PC and just use tablets. Maybe it's an attempt to equate a fondness for country music with the rural poor, who are usually small-c conservative and, like the urban poor, don't have the income to jump on the latest technology flavor of the year? You'd think Amazon would know better than that, country people have just as wide a variety of tastes as urbanites - sometimes wider, since they don't suffer prejudice against rural culture.

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to Daekar:


        I say this as someone who listens to George Jones and the Old 97s on a daily basis...

        Maybe they're zeroing in on older folks who are using Alexa to play hard-to-find vintage Country? We're talking about the stuff that's really forgotten nowadays. Bob Wills, the Sons of the Pioneers, Roy Rogers, that kinda stuff? Older folks who find keyboard-and-mouse to be too scary, but when their grandkids say "It's a virtual woman in a box you talk to."

        They can get their heads around it and are able to now use technology by saying, "Hey Google play 'Cool Water' by The Sons of the Pioneers" and they get to hear Cool Water.

        PS I never thought I'd be involved in a conversation about ambient computing where the Sons of The Pioneers were a factor.

        Cool Water by The Sons of the Pioneers with Roy Rogers


  13. DaddyBrownJr

    Great; now there will be two "assistants" on the PC that I won't use.

  14. Angusmatheson

    This is terrible news for Cotana. 1) even Microsoft’s closest partners have no faith in it. And 2) the one advantage Cotana had was a built in Windows 10 install base...and now that will be gone.

    • BoItmanLives

      In reply to Angusmatheson:

      MS never really cared about Cortana. They haven't even bothered to make it work outside the U.S.

      • Angusmatheson

        In reply to BoItmanLives:

        I’m not sure if hey ever cared, but I would totally agree they didn’t seem to put on the work necessary for it to succeed. (One could argue Apple did the same thing with Siri - but at least that works poorly in lots of languages and in lots of countries).

      • roastedwookie

        In reply to BoItmanLives:

        Not only that, but while on Windows Phone 8.1 was working fine and the future for it was bright, along with wincrap 10, Cortana was also bugged down...junk OS, junk features. Nadella style

    • jrickel96

      In reply to Angusmatheson:

      Cortana has more to do with back end than front end. Personal assistants are failures across the board. Alexa has about as many active users as Chromebooks by measurements - around 10-15 million globally tops. People use assistants as novelties or they use them for simple tasks like connecting to Phillips Hue, etc. But they don't go much beyond asking for the weather, asking for the news, asking to play some music, or asking to raise or dim the lights (or maybe set the thermostat). Third party skills have done poorly. No one uses the Alexa app on Android or iOS, so hard to believe anyone will use it on PC.

      Assistant usage rates are very low. There's a reason why Google and Amazon don't crow about numbers on that front.

    • behindmyscreen

      In reply to Angusmatheson:

      Cortana for consumers? No, it doesn't sting....Selling Cortana and a backend service to Amazon (maybe Apple too?) Priceless.

  15. dcdevito

    "As Amazon recently noted, it’s seeing new demographics, like older people and country music fans, embrace Alexa"

    How is this possible? Is Microsoft giving them this kind of data? That's a bit concerning

  16. SilentHero117

    Asked Cortana on my PC this morning for the forecast for Memorial Day and she pulled up the average January tempratures. Not hard to see why OEMs are looking elsewhere....this is all on Microsoft.

  17. glenn8878

    Microsoft doesn’t market any accessories to use Cortana or Skype on desktop PCs so customers must fend for themselves. It’s no surprise PC makers will sell Alexa since Cortana has virtually no support or marketing awareness. Cortana already doesn’t support music playing. Useless and getting less use.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to glenn8878 Actually she still does support music. I can have her play from iHeart, Spotify, Tune-in, on my Invoke. Was able to play from Groove and my OneDrive music folder when MS had a music service. Sort of a domino thing. No phone, no music service, no need for assistant....

  18. BoItmanLives

    Tough break for the fanboys that believed the "Amazon/MS" partnership rumors meant something. Amazon isn't interested in Cortana, duh.

  19. roastedwookie

    :))) a big F YOU Microsoft and their completely JUNK Cortana.