Microsoft Issues Digital Personal Assistant Report

Posted on April 25, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Microsoft, Mobile, Smart Home, Windows 10 with 14 Comments

Microsoft, an also-ran in the market for digital personal assistants, has issued a report about digital personal assistants.

“There’s no denying that voice offers compelling advantages over its predecessors including the mouse, keyboard and touch screen – especially when it comes to accessibility and inclusion,” a Microsoft writeup about the report notes. “But still, there are lingering questions. Can voice technology live up to the hype? Will tech builders be able to overcome trust issues from leery consumers? How does Cortana stand out from the competition?”

Yes, Microsoft actually mentions Cortana.

Anyway, the Microsoft report issued three key findings about the relationships that consumers have with digital personal assistants. They are:

80 percent of digital personal assistant users are somewhat or very satisfied. Users “like using voice and are satisfied with their digital assistants,” Microsoft notes. “They are using their digital assistants to perform small, uncomplicated tasks – the three most commonly cited tasks were searching for a quick fact, asking for directions and searching for a product/service.”

41 percent of users report concerns around trust, privacy and passive listening. “It is up to tech builders to create a secure conversational landscape where consumers feel safe enough to share personally identifiable information and transact,” Microsoft notes, noting that the Internet posed similar challenges as its usage exploded.

Over half believe that digital assistants will help them make retail purchases within the next 5 years. “Consumers are – and always will be – drawn to speed and efficiency,” Microsoft says. “Report findings hint at a future filled with image shopping, retailer chatbots and digital assistants that proactively shop on our behalf.”

Looking at the actual report, you’ll see that Microsoft claims that Cortana is used by 19 percent of respondents, putting it in fourth place behind Google Assistant and Apple Siri (both with 36 percent usage) and Amazon Alexa (25 percent). 1 percent of respondents use “Other,” which is presumably Samsung Bixby. (The report obviously doesn’t cover China, where other assistants rule.)

But Cortana is not available broadly to consumers. The report notes, for example, that “smart speakers rule,” but Cortana was only made available on one smart speaker model, ever, and that is no longer marketed. Smart speakers are also the key to “home management,” another area where Cortana, and Microsoft, play no role at all.

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that Microsoft positions Cortana as a business solution, where it can “transform the way we work.”

“Cortana is integrated across Microsoft’s subscription-based cloud Office suite, Office 365, Skype, Windows 10 and Xbox,” the report notes. “Perhaps less like Amazon, Apple, and Google, Microsoft is positioning Cortana as complementary to the other players in the voice assistant technology space, instead of competing directly with them. She is also integrated as a voice skill for Amazon Alexa and a voice action for Google Assistant.”

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