Microsoft is Now Selling Amazon Echo Smart Speakers

Posted on November 17, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Smart Home with 18 Comments

In yet another not-so-subtle indication that it is pushing Cortana aside for Amazon’s digital personal assistant, Microsoft is now selling Echo smart speakers from its retail and online stores.

First spotted by WalkingCat on Twitter, Microsoft’s Alexa offerings include the Amazon Echo Dot and the larger Amazon Echo. They are available online and from Microsoft’s retail stores.

Microsoft has been aligning itself with Amazon Alexa—and distancing itself from Cortana in the process—since the two firms announced a partnership in August 2017 to closely integrate the two solutions. This deal always seemed curiously one-sided, and with the public preview finally available a year later after many delays, it appears that the end-game is to make Cortana just one of many Alexa skills.

Since then, Cortana has been slowly erased from its few strongholds. Sometimes explicitly by Microsoft.

The software giant added Alexa support to Xbox One and it is bringing Skype to Amazon’s smart home products. And the much-touted Cortana-powered GLAS smart thermostat launched with support for both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

And on the PC, many PC makers are now including Alexa on their consumer-oriented offerings. And Amazon recently released a Windows 10 app for its digital personal assistant.

It’s unclear why Microsoft can’t simply communicate its defeat and move on. But then we’ve seen this kind of passive-aggressive behavior before. With Windows Phone, it pretended that its abandoned mobile platform was still relevant while embracing Android and even selling Android-based handsets in its own store.

It’s kind of a cruel thing to do to your most faithful fans. And Microsoft is doing it again.

 

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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Microsoft is Now Selling Amazon Echo Smart Speakers”

  1. Avatar

    Daekar

    I don't know how to feel about this, honestly. I don't use assistants with any frequency, but when I do it's Cortana because she's tied in with my email, calendar, work files, etc. I am really not anxious to jump into yet another ecosystem with Amazon just for an assistant.

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts on using Alexa from a Microsoft perspective, what the compromises are and what benefits we would stand to gain for the trouble.

  2. Avatar

    cadrethree

    This is what happens when Nadella made the fatal mistake of abandoning it's mobile phone market. No matter how small you're market share or money lost they shouldn't gave it up. But they did, right at the time when the entire world is switching over to this form factor as their daily computer. Windows is losing, Xbox is doing ok but can't replace the total customer engagement that Windows brought to Microsoft. Azure will tide them over, but they are caught between companies competing with and beating them in every market. Apple, Google, Amazon are all going after Microsoft's territory and slowing bleeding them. Nadella needs to go. At this point they need Amazon as a ally and benefactor. People will say look at the record profits they are making, which is true, but you need to look at the mindshare they are losing. I'm the biggest Microsoft and Windows fan and I haven't touched a pc in years. Android and Amazon have my needs covered. It's a pain to use Microsoft apps on Android but I struggle thru it. Wished they had brought in Alan Mulally or left Ballmer in charge. I come to this site mainly for Paul and care little about Microsoft, anymore.

  3. Avatar

    glenn8878

    Cortana has many technical issues, but the main problem is no one is using it on PCs. It lacks a Microsoft approved peripheral and it barely offered a speaker like Echo.

  4. Avatar

    BoItmanLives

    "It’s unclear why Microsoft can’t simply communicate its defeat and move on. But then we’ve seen this kind of passive-aggressive behavior before."


    It's this cowardly "corporate ghosting" that they decided some years ago would be their official PR SOP. "Why press release something negative and doesn't benefit us". That seems to be the attitude. They couldn't care less about the customers that lose money buying into their abandoned product or service.

  5. Avatar

    BoItmanLives

    Embarrassing for the fanboys that always cried here that Cortana wasn't dead when it was obvious to everyone else.

  6. Avatar

    jwpear

    I don't see much of a point to Cortana these days, so this doesn't seem like much of a loss, at least for me. For once, I did not get heavily invested in this MS product. I can't imagine there is a very large Cortana deployment.


    I'm glad to see them team up with Amazon. I'd much rather invest there than in Google so that Google has some competition.


    We've had Alexa devices in the home for a couple of years now. I can't say that we find them indispensable. We just haven't found anything outside the most basic interaction--turn on/off lights, what's the weather, add item to grocery list, etc.-- to be easier than just doing something ourselves. Maybe simple interactions are enough and the set grows to a point that Alexa (or Google's assistant) become truly indispensable.


    I'm looking forward to adding an Alexa device to our Xbox. I think this will allow us to finally remove our Kinect.

  7. Avatar

    bfarkas

    Paul, I wonder if a more formal and deeper integration will happen here. I know had have agreed tha google will overtake amazons lead as they have the cloud and search powers behind them, and ou thought Cortana could be number two, what is Microsoft’s infrastructure gets added to Alexa to create a strong competitior to google?


    i say this as a person who has an Alexa and a google device in each room and use both interchangably currently.

  8. Avatar

    ponsaelius

    Microsoft now have a smart home system. Provided by Amazon.


    Cortana on the echo is a US Only product. Part of the usual pattern for Microsoft.

  9. Avatar

    Ulfvar

    Microsoft was the only one I trusted with my personal assistant data, really sad to see this happen. I finally accepted they gave up on windows phone when they started selling android phones just as I now accept Cortana is finally dead to them after this.


    Not sure what assistant I should start using now to be honest, I don't trust google or amazon with my data and Siri has too few devices and is too bound to the apple ecosystem.

  10. Avatar

    wolters

    "It’s kind of a cruel thing to do to your most faithful fans. And Microsoft is doing it again."


    I've grown anesthetized to these things now. After Zune, Windows Phone, Windows Media Center, Microsoft Band, Kinect, Groove, and others, nothing surprises or bothers me these days about Microsoft's decisions.


    That said, I am still a Microsoft Fan and prefer Windows as my primary digital hub (if you will.) I've made a heavy investment into Google Products and Assistant and now Microsoft seems to be going to the Alexa direction. I really don't want to change my digital assistant world yet again.

    • Avatar

      eric_rasmussen

      In reply to wolters:

      I could have written that... I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers and loved all of these things. Microsoft was one of the first in the music subscription business. Between Zune and the Music Pass, they had a killer app. All they needed to do was add the Windows Phone functionality into it and they could have had an innovative competitor to the iPhone. Same with Media Center; they had a decade-long head start over Roku, but there again they messed it up.


      It makes me wonder if Microsoft Research is the division within the company that comes up with all of these ideas. These things were great ideas and ahead of their time, but then suddenly it's like the innovation stops and Microsoft becomes incapable of making the products better. What was once an amazing idea just sort of lingers on like an electronic zombie until Microsoft kills it off. It's almost like management of these things switches internally and at that point it all breaks down.


      Microsoft has some of the brightest minds in the industry working for them. I don't think they know how to use that to their advantage. Google treats their engineers the way Microsoft treated their engineers in the 90's, which is only going to make Microsoft's problems worse. Perhaps one day we'll be watching Paul and Mary Jo on the podcast "Fuscia Weekly". :)

      • Avatar

        wolters

        In reply to Eric_Rasmussen:

        I remember when someone released a plug in for for Netflix on Windows Media Center, long before the XBOX 360 had an "app" for it. Once they got the bugs out, it worked great but then I did just settle for the app eventually. But it was nice to see some development.


        Google does the same thing when it comes to an amazing idea. They kill it off.


        With Microsoft being the center of my digital world, it has made me pause to reflect on Microsoft's new strategy with Amazing Echo. But Google Assistant flows so well for me that I really don't need it to interact with my Windows PC's beyond the calendar.

  11. Avatar

    Angusmatheson

    This is foolish. It is clear that natural language ambient computing is the next next platform. Apple clearly saw this when the bought Siri, then squandered their lead. The natural places for this type of computing are on your body or in microphones in your car or around your phone. Amazon has brilliant moved into the second area, which Apple despite buying Beat, a speaker manufacturer, had abandoned for years and then produced a speaker that spoke to very few and made Siri on it of dubious use. Google has the google home - which containing speaker, WiFi mesh, and google assistant - and a bunch of other assistant speakers as well as over a billion phone and a toe hold on wearables with wear OS - although apparently very few wearable devices. Amazon is getting Alexa on a few android phones, but an assistant that isn’t with you all the time doesn’t make any sense. Cortana was in a bad place with the computer being absolutely the last place an assistant is useful. The keyboard and mouse are much better ways to interface with a computer then voice. However, if they are really surrendering to Amazon and Alexa - they are abandoning the future of computing. Brad just mentioned that Cortana could be the voice of any company - wouldn’t it be better for your comapny’s AI to talk to your costumer than your customers’s AI personal assistant getting information. At least in the first you control the interaction. But all the assistants need to get better. It seems Google is getting better fastest - but I don’t think it is game over yet and Google will own natural language like it owns search. But here is Microsoft surrendered to Amazon. Perhaps they fear that if they don’t support Alexa, Google Assistant will simply win - and my enemy’s enemy is my friend. But in a world where AWS and Azure comptetr Microsoft and Amazon cannot really be allies. Microsoft blew mobile are they going to blow natural language ambient computing too?

    • Avatar

      Tony Barrett

      In reply to Angusmatheson:

      I agree. Amazon may have had an early lead AI assistant, but they were only really doing well in smart speakers. They don't have mobile, or automotive, or wearables, but realized MS were going nowhere with Cortana, so offered them a lifeline by having the ability to integrate Alexa on the PC. As you say though, the PC is the absolute least useful place for an assistant - almost pointless. Apple's Siri is just dumb, and Apple seem to be just relying on idevice sales to carry them through, which are now stagnant or falling. The only player in this whole game who has all the pieces is Google - smart speakers and other devices (check), wearables (check), automotive (check), mobile (check), IoT (check). You can just see Google slowly cleaning up and taking the whole show.

  12. Avatar

    waethorn

    I got railed on by pointing out that this is Microsoft's priority now. Cortana is now just an Amazon shopping assistant that feeds Big Eye Bezos & Co. all your consumer info.

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