Microsoft and Amazon are Partnering on Cortana and Alexa Integration (Updated x 2)

Posted on August 30, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Smart Home, Windows 10 with 81 Comments

Microsoft and Amazon are Partnering on Cortana and Alexa Integration (Updated x 2)

UPDATE: An Amazon press release is now available too. It doesn’t add any new information, but I’ve pulled some quotes from the CEOs of Amazon and Microsoft below. –Paul

UPDATE 2: Microsoft has now posted something about the integration too. See below for more details. —Paul

Over a year ago, Microsoft secretly agreed to partner with Amazon to integrate their digital personal assistants. And while it’s unclear what form this integration will take as I write this, we should learn more later today.

News of the partnership arrives via a New York Times report, which notes that users will be able to summon Cortana using Alexa, and vice versa, “by the end of the year.”

According to the publication, the integration is coming about because Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos realized that Cortana offered unique features related to Microsoft Outlook and Office that Amazon’s Alexa asked. So he reached out to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in May 2016. Nadella, unsurprisingly, was receptive.

“The personality and expertise of each [assistant] will be such that if they interoperated, the user will get more out of it,” Mr. Nadella told The New York Times. “That resonated for me and for [Mr. Bezos], and then that’s what led to the teams working.”

Neither company has reached out to Google and Apple, the other two major firms working on digital personal assistants and smart speakers. The New York Times speculates that each would reject a similar partnership, but Apple, in particular, could use the help. But Nadella is hopeful.

“I’d welcome it,” he said. “Hopefully, [Apple and Google] will be inspired by [our partnership with Amazon]. At least that would be my hope.”

Initially, the Cortana/Alexa integration will be “awkward,” The New York Times says. A user working with an Alexa device will have to say “Alexa, open Cortana” and then issue a new command for Microsoft’s assistant. Likewise, that rare person using Cortana will have to say “Cortana, open Alexa.”

And that, fundamentally, is the issue. No, not the awkwardness. I’m sure that will be addressed over time. No, Cortana’s almost non-existent position in the market.

As you must know, Amazon holds a commanding lead in the digital personal assistant market, with over 70 percent usage share. Apple will always have some position as well, if only because of the dedication of its fans. And Google is racing forward with Google Assistant, which should seize some major piece of this pie simply through the search giant’s expertise and acumen.

But Microsoft? Cortana first launched on the failed Windows phone platform, so it’s like it never happened. And because it’s relegated to Windows 10 on PCs today, Cortana is basically a non-starter. Less than one-third of Windows 10 users even bother to use the technology.

So the issue for Microsoft is that Cortana just becomes one of many, many skills on Alexa. Whereas Cortana becomes just another way to use Alexa. In other words, while the news of this partnership is fascinating and unexpected, it may not actually change the dynamics of this market, which today revolve around three major players, none named Microsoft. (And, I’ve deliberately left Samsung out of this conversation, but it has its own assistant, named Bixby.)

And Bezos hints at this future in The New York Times piece. He predicts that the primary assistant on a device will be smart enough to automatically route a person’s request to whichever assistant is best equipped to answer, without needing a verbal introduction between the two.

“In my view of the world, because that would be best for the customer, that’s probably what eventually happens,” he says.

Update: Quotes from Jeff Bezos and Satya Nadella

“Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”

“The world is big and so multifaceted. There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, Amazon. “It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.”

Update: Microsoft adds more schedule details

The Microsoft post notes that “this collaboration will allow you to access Alexa via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs later this year, followed by Android and iOS in the future.” It also notes that you will be able to access Cortana on Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show. But doesn’t explain the timeline for that.

“Cortana users will be able to have Alexa shop on Amazon.com and manage their Amazon orders and access many of Alexa’s third-party skills by asking Cortana to open Alexa, just as Alexa users will have access to Cortana’s world knowledge and helpful productivity features such as calendar management, day at a glance and location-based reminders simply by asking Alexa to open Cortana,” Microsoft corporate vice president Andrew Shuman adds.

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Comments (81)

81 responses to “Microsoft and Amazon are Partnering on Cortana and Alexa Integration (Updated x 2)”

  1. Avatar

    crfonseca

    Uh, that might explain why skills for Cortana are mostly non-existent. I mean, why go to the trouble of developing a skills platform that developers won't care about when you can integrate someone else's that they already do use?

  2. Avatar

    Bats

    Does this mean that Brad's kitchen device will be an echo rather than the Harmon Kardon product?

  3. Avatar

    Noel

    That is utterly insane and utterly brilliant. Amazon gets access to iOS and Android devices and Microsoft gets access to Echoes.

    By the way Paul. Many people use Cortana. When you type in the search bar on Windows 10 machine you're using Cortana. It's not all about speaking at devices.

  4. Avatar

    wright_is

    I use Cortana more (a couple of times a month) on my Windows PC than I do Google Assistant on my Android smartphone (twice in a year)...

    Where Cortana is useful is installing a Windows 10 PC. When I set up a new PC, I have to go through the configuration options, most of those can be done via Cortana voice recognition now, so I don't need to go away from my work PC to the new PC during the installation. Otherwise, I haven't really found any assistant useful so far.

    Maybe if Cortana was available on Android, I may use it more often - I used to use it on my Windows phone to start Audible books or podcasts, something Google Assistant seems incapable of.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to kcarson97404:

      Not outside North America (and possibly the UK) it isn't. :-(


      Edit: Just clicked on the link and Cortana for Android is incompatible with all my devices (Nexus 5x and Samsung Galaxy S8). So guessing it is region locked, as mine aren't USA versions.

  5. Avatar

    Stooks

    "Cortana is basically a non-starter"


    Paul is there anything that Microsoft makes that you actually like? Yesterday you told us how you don't like Groove. You are not a fan of Windows 10 S that is for sure. You quit using Word to write.


    However we do know you love a lot of Google products. Maybe your blog should focus on Google instead of Microsoft? You could be a regular on "This Week in Google". Then again that show is nothing but politics or has been the last 6 months.



    • Avatar

      Munsey Slack

      In reply to Stooks:

      I'm in complete agreement. It's becoming painfully obvious that Paul's trying to convert his followers over to Google/Android because he knows the Microsoft path has no future for him (a consumer device blogger). I've been a long time listener to Windows Weekly and am very close to dropping the podcast because of Paul's constant Microsoft rants that are more opinion that fact. I listen to that show because I want to know what's going on in Microsoft's world, not hear constant criticism of them. So, I now look forward to the Windows Central podcast and somewhat dread Windows Weekly. Maybe it's time for Brad to take over for Paul on that one...

    • Avatar

      Tony Barrett

      In reply to Stooks:

      I think Mr Thurrott is just exasperated by Microsoft's inability to even grasp the simple things and get them right. Microsoft's heritage is the Enterprise - a market they do understand and milk to great effect. The fact most of Microsoft's attempts to crack the consumer market have failed dismally just goes to show how frustrating it must be for blogger's like him to write anything positive when MS screw up over and over again. Almost all the time though, he's right. It only sounds negative, because there's no other way of putting it. In the consumer market, MS are just a 'me too' company struggling for anything approaching reasonable market share, but usually years late to any party with products that often miss the mark completely. It's fun yet disheartening to watch the once great MS take aim at their feet time after time and blow great big holes in them.

      The only reason they have any consumer relevance is because of Windows - a product slowly dying under it's own feature bloated weight. Older consumers know Windows well, but even they are moving away from it. Younger people only give Windows a passing glance - it has little to do with their daily lives, and is just seen as a dinosaur in a fast moving mobile world.

    • Avatar

      Daekar

      In reply to Stooks:

      I stopped listening to that show because I couldn't take the politics and willful ignorance. So painful.


      I am starting to wonder if Paul does actually use any Microsoft products anymore though.

    • Avatar

      PeteB

      In reply to Stooks:

      Found the closet MSFT employee.

    • Avatar

      EZAB

      In reply to Stooks:

      Could not agree more! Some of us STILL use Microsoft services and NOT Google and Android! This is getting old.

  6. Avatar

    wolters

    I actually welcome this news as I am often finding myself using all 3 (Google Assistant, Cortana and Alexa) for reminders and other things. If I can get two of them to integrate, that would be awesome. Now if Alexa/Cortana would let me enter reminders via voice on my Android Wear watch... :)

  7. Avatar

    Jim Lewis

    Slight misquote from NYT, Paul. It was Bezos, not Nadella, who said that he'd welcome Google and Apple joining them:


    '....Mr. Bezos said he had not reached out to Apple or Google to invite them to join in the effort and does not know if they would want to.

    “I’d welcome it,” he said.....'

  8. Avatar

    Tony Barrett

    Sounds like Amazon are playing Microsoft here. Amazon aren't stupid, but see that access to Outlook/Office through Alexa - the market leader by far - would be beneficial to them. MS on the other hand, are just being handed a few table scraps, with the remote possibility of getting the tip of a toe in the door. Honestly, as Cortana has such few regular users, who is going to buy an Echo just to access Cortana. Answer: no one. Cortana was designed for mobile. It's next to useless on the desktop. Amazon will get what they want out of this. MS will get next to nothing in the end. Amazon didn't get to where they are now through making rash decisions and stupid mistakes.

  9. Avatar

    maethorechannen

    I wish that the UK Alexa and Cortana voices weren't so similar (I actually wonder if they're the same voice, with the difference being the speaker). Not that it matters much, setting how long it takes both MS and Amazon to ship features across the pond.

  10. Avatar

    BrianEricFord

    This feels eerily similar to Steve Jobs bringing in John Sculley.


    The way I heard it was Cortana asked Alexa if she wanted to sell organic groceries for the rest of her life or if she wanted to change the world.

  11. Avatar

    Randall Lewis

    Paul, it is notable that Apple never talks about Siri use and that is a good indicator of flat or declining use. But to continue your hate on all things Microsoft routine to claim that no one uses Cortana you then ignore the same indicator. Microsoft does talk about Cortana use and claims 145 million monthly discrete users. That number is far larger than your subscriber base or your discrete monthly readers and I would never claim that no one reads Thurrott. And frankly, I have seen real world use of Siri and Cortana (not counting myself) in public. I've never seen, and I doubt I ever will, hear any person in a public place utter the words "OK Google"

  12. Avatar

    Html Color

    Your article reflects the issue people are concerned about. The article provides timely information that reflects multi-dimensional views from multiple perspectives. I look forward to reading quality articles that contain timely information from you.

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  13. Avatar

    charms55

    I can imagine the Integration:


    Alexa: Cortana. Are you the one who scheduled the 2 o'clock on Wednesday? You know I set the gym that time don't.


    Cortana: no. But I bet I know who did. SIRI! QUIT TEXTING BIXBY AND GET YOUR A$$ OVER HERE!

  14. Avatar

    Minok

    For all of this to be worth thinking about from a consumer perspective, the performance of the integrated system as to reach the point of : "Alexa, whats on my calendar for next tuesday" and that returns Outlook information, or asking "Cortana, play my rock mix" and that results in the PC speakers getting audio streamed from your Amazon service.


    The pre-states to get there are non-starters, just the way folks just wont use "Alexa, what is <x> on <service Y>" does't cut it. The request needs to be plain unbranded english (or other lanuages) that does what the user expects, with the exception of the wake word activating the appropriate device.

  15. Avatar

    Rob_Wade

    This is just ridiculous. I want a single assistant. I want a single assistant capable of doing what I ask with IT asking another AI, and so on. Cortana should be able to shop at Amazon...or WHEREVER. There should be nothing Alexa can do that Cortana can't.

  16. Avatar

    slomike1

    In paragraph 3. "and Office that Amazon’s Alexa asked." I think it should say "Alexa lacked".


    -Mike

  17. Avatar

    Simard57

    Cortana is my digital assistant

    Alexa is the home's digital assistant


    will this integration be smart enough to separate me asking Alexa for Cortana help and my wife asking Alexa for Cortana help?

  18. Avatar

    Simard57

    I have read and reread this line

    "Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos realized that Cortana offered unique features related to Microsoft Outlook and Office that Amazon’s Alexa asked"


    do you mean to say

    "Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos realized that Cortana offered unique features related to Microsoft Outlook and Office that Amazon’s Alexa lacked"


    or do you mean something else.


    Not trying to be a grammar cop (heaven knows I am unqualified), just trying to understand what you wrote without resorting to guessing


  19. Avatar

    PeteB

    Microsoft yet again trying to jump someone else's bandwagon. Embarrassing.

  20. Avatar

    feek

    I guess it could potentially tempt more people to give talking to their PC, or interfacing with Cortana in general, a try

  21. Avatar

    bsd107

    To me, is great news. I'll be able to use any of my Windows 10 laptops/tablets to control devices I have linked to Alexa (e.g. Wink).

  22. Avatar

    edboyhan

    I think this is just great -- as I am heavily invested in technologies and devices from both companies.

    I'll be at Ignite in Orlando at the end of September -- I wonder if there might be some more info on offer there -- maybe even a demo or two?

  23. Avatar

    nbplopes

    I thought that Alexa had a Skills API :)


    I wonder how than well integrated will be Amazon/Alexa on Windows 10S :)


    Location based reminders? On a speaker? Guess I'll have to carry one of those around :)


    So what we have here is a passthrough, a bit like HDMI pass through on XBoc One for Setopboxes. Sounds great, it's the future :)

  24. Avatar

    dhallman

    I wonder if this is the beginning of a bigger relationship between the 2 companies? As others have pointed out Alexa is already powered by Bing and is no doubt one of the largest growth drivers for Bing's usage. But what if Amazon and Microsoft 'hitch their wagons together' in other ways?


    The one area they really get in each others way is cloud services. So that could be seen as an issue. But if they could merge their services they would be better positioned to fend off growth from Apple and Google for quite some time.


    Otherwise Microsoft commands the enterprise and Amazon commands consumers and retail. In many ways they kind of complete each other and quickly correct many of Microsoft's delays and missteps. They still would not have a good phone to offer. But Microsoft apps + Amazon Kindle + Fire + a Surface innovation + a retail innovation of some kind would have the 2 camps of fans looking at a new device pretty hard.


    Microsoft stores could become Microsoft/Amazon technology centers similar to the Whole Foods expansion. But for tech.


    Interesting to consider...

  25. Avatar

    Rob_Wade

    I'm the rarest of the rare. I continue to rely on my Lumia 1020 (still on 8.1) as my primary device and I have a 950 as a backup and to continue testing what MS is doing to the platform. My wife and I use Cortana a lot. I rely on voice control heavily, on all devices. Especially my phone. And, for what it's worth, EVERYONE who sees me doing it is amazed. That said, I'm convinced this deal is the death warrant for Cortana. I refuse to buy Apple or Android products, I'll never use their services, and I refuse to buy some stupid Alexa piece of junk. I fully embraced Cortana. What I EXPECTED from Microsoft, as they expanded Cortana's presence across PCs and Xbox, was that they would be INTELLIGENT enough to fully integrate the Cortana experience, thus making idiotic speakers, etc., unnecessary. But, no, Satya Nadella and his minions can't seem to get that through their thick skulls. If Cortana were truly a unified experience, I could be anywhere, near any device, and say, "Hey, Cortana" and then have her do anything I needed. And I wouldn't get 5 different responses just because I have 5 different devices within earshot. One "entity" on many devices, all listening, but only responding from the device that makes sense or that I command. Where are the intelligent people at Microsoft? Why don't they get this, and why are they instead bending over and spreading for Alexa, knowing FULL WELL that Cortana will eventually just disappear BECAUSE of this?

  26. Avatar

    Roger Ramjet

    Btw Paul, the reporting could add more, sorry, as opposed to rehashing your views on Cortana or Microsoft problems. The big question here is really how does this fit with their IoT/Home Hub approach overall which they have teased like a frozen stripper. Clearly, they are planning some sort of Big Bang concept thing there ... no one takes that long to introduce something and then not show up. Not even Microsoft ...

    Related, this may change the basis of competition by reinforcing to OEMs they don't need to choose 1 AI assistant. There are already products using up to 3 of them. If that's the case the idea (pushed by PT) that well, Google wins (presumably because they have Android, and therefore will be chosen by OEMs) goes out the window. The basis of competition shifts because OEMs don't have to choose ...

    Btw nice timing of the leak to NYT. Coincidence, I am sure. And what is that ham about Cortana having access to MS office, come on Bezos, make up something than doesn't sound made up.

  27. Avatar

    Chris Payne

    "Cortana offered unique features related to Microsoft Outlook and Office that Amazon’s Alexa asked."


    Did you mean "lacked," instead of "asked?"


    Anyone else see this as an opportunity for MS to stay out of the hardware market? Why build a smart speaker when Amazon already does? This is more of their cross-platform play, get MS services everywhere except on their own devices (which will slowly be phased out).

    • Avatar

      Roger Ramjet

      In reply to unkinected:

      It was already clear they didn't intend to build a smart speaker. They partnered with Harmon/Kardon. Any smart speaker Microsoft would build has to be high end,(Surface approach) and that would sit right ontop of the HK offering which wouldn't be kosher.

  28. Avatar

    Bats

    It's funny how Microsoft is trying to stick Cortana everywhere. 

    This leeching strategy is quite interesting. I don't know if it's working though. NO ONE ever talks about Cortana, ever. Obviously, that's not possible to know since "the home" is purely the only domain where Cortana can dominion over. More specifically, that ONE room. With that said this Amazon-Microsoft partnership is very interesting. 

    Let's face it. Microsoft has no choice but to leech. No one is using Cortana.... and for good reason. Cortana is kinda dumb. You talk about performace consistency, The Google Assistant is hard to beat. Look what happened to me Sunday night/Monday morning. I had my HP Spectre X2, beside me on my nightstand. I said, "Hey Cortana...who is the actor who played Rhaegar Targaryan on Game of Thrones?" For some reason, Cortana though I was asking about a company called Raymour and Flanigan. I can see it type Raymour and Flanigan and returning the search results on Bing. I asked 3 more times, and all I got were 3 more fails. However, I asked Google on google.com and it got it right in one shot. To be honest, I did not get the answer from the voice queiries, but I can clearly see that Google got it right, while Cortana thought I was asking for a furniture store.

    Also, last night...I decided to play the Doctor Who Game on Skype, what another fail. I assume that Cortana is behind the Skype bot? Anyway, the Bot (as Peter Capaldi) asked me if I want to move forward with the game and I said no. It continued anyway, thinking I said "Yes." I've played with the Google Assistant on Google Allo,...OMG....totally better! It's like talking to a real person.

    The point of all this is this...Cortana, like Windows 10 S, is not ready. I see this Amazon/Microsoft partnership where Amazon has the most to gain and Microsoft...nothing. Amazon has already stated that they are going to improve the Echo for music. If this is the case and Amazon is the leader in this space, who is gonna buy the Microsoft's Harmon Kardon device? 

    In this relationship, Amazon is clearly the alpha with Microsoft being the beta. CLEARLY! Amazon has the goods and services, they have the music, they have the video, they practically have everything. All Microsoft has is, Office. This partnership definitely favors Amazon.

  29. Avatar

    jrickel96

    I'm not sure that Amazon holds a personal assistant lead at all. They hold a 70% smart speaker market share, but that is a very, very small market. My guess is that Siri is by far the most used personal assistant due to the popularity of the iPhone and the fact that people use Siri.


    My guess is Google's personal assistant is the least used, less so than Cortana (because Cortana is technically the lower search bar in Windows 10). I've seen one person over the past two years speak to their Android phone via "OK Google". I see many ask Siri a question every week.


    Smart speakers sold around 8 million devices last year. Microsoft probably sold more Xbox One consoles (with Cortana) than Amazon sold smart speakers last year. So Amazon sold around 6 million Echo speakers in 2016.


    Another funny thing about these speakers is that they don't sell much throughout the year. Last year they spiked around Christmas and than took a massive dive. In February-April, sales actually DECREASED by about 10-15% compared to 2016.


    Are smart speakers just a Christmas 2016 fad? We'll find out later this year. I have a feeling that sales will be down. My own observations are anecdotal, but I'd imagine the usage rate is about 50%. I know a lot of people that bought Echo on impulse or got one as a gift but never use it past the first couple of months.


    But I'd bet good money that Siri is way more popular than Alexa or any other assistant. I use Siri several times a week, especially when interacting with her in my car via CarPlay. I use Cortana a couple times a week via the Search bar in W10. I never use Alexa or Google's Assistant.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to jrickel96:

      Given that Apple has a 13% market share in smartphones, I would guess that Siri is not a major player.

    • Avatar

      bsd107

      In reply to jrickel96:

      The problem with all of this is defining "usage". E.g.:


      • I use Cortana frequently on my XBox One. But it is only to turn the device on and off, and to pause and resume video playback


      • I use Siri, but only to send SMS messages from my Apple Watch, or occasionally to initiate a phone call on my iPhone.


      Do either of those scenarios really count as "using" Cortana or Siri? These are just "dumb" voice control features, which existed to some extent on both of those platforms before the Cortana/Siri actually were released...

    • Avatar

      goodbar

      In reply to jrickel96:

      Echo's are a mainstay in our house as well (Music and timers... who would have thought). I'll admit Google Assistant is better to talk to from a conversational/maintaining context standpoint, but I wonder if this is simply a case where the cheap echo dots and variety of echo devices just win thru sheer market share. Sort of like how Android ended up dominating the smartphone market... when something better came along (windows phone) it didn't matter if it was better or not... Android already took the market. I suppose we'll see if the rumored Google Echo Dot competitor can change things.

    • Avatar

      christosays

      In reply to jrickel96:

      I must be one of the few then, I hardly use Siri at all. The Amazon Echo is a mainstay in our household. We use it to control lighting, get updates on weather, set timers when for example we're cooking or what not, answer random questions we might have like unit conversions for instance, or even to play music. All of this is doable via Siri but we don't even think of using her and my wife and I both have iPhones.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to jrickel96:

      If Siri had any appreciable usage, Apple would tout that at its events. It is silent, so that's all you need to know there. But it doesn't matter, Google Assistant will "win" this race. The only question is which will be number two.

      • Avatar

        melinau

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Not so sure about that.

        Google Home is great for using Google Services, but otherwise Meh.

        Instead of all this diversity I want standardisation & interoperability. Fat chance!

      • Avatar

        jrickel96

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Why tout it when no one uses any of them? Surveys indicate that Alexa only gets used regularly by 35% of the people that have an Amazon device or have installed Alexa on their phone.


        Alexa has roughly 4 million regular users at most.


        Siri has roughly 20 million regular users based on install base.


        Cortana has around 15-20 million regular users as well, though we're talking about using the text interface.


        Google is around 25-30 million.


        Alexa has the most loyal user base, it also has the smallest installed user base.


        Overall less than 20% of people that have access to a digital assistant use it regularly.


        Why doesn't Apple tout Siri as this? Because Siri's usage numbers pale to the iPhone's install numbers just as Google Now would look pathetic next to the number of Android phones in use. Even Cortana looks lame compared to Windows installs.


        Alexa looks good because Amazon has only sold 8 million smart speakers in two years. No one installs Alexa on their phones. And even those smart speakers have a sad regular usage rate of around 30%.


        Like a lot of people, I got one for Christmas. I used it for a week.


        Here's the other kicker to consider: talking to stuff is what old people do. Younger people are so used to texting that the PREFER it for input. I deal with a lot of 20 somethings that find ALL the smart speakers to be stupid things. Why say something when you can type it? An intelligent parser interface is something they'd love. They grew up texting. It's a natural way to communicate to them.


        I would bet that we'll see a decline in smart speaker sales this Christmas and 2016 will be the peak sales year. They fell off the face of the planet as soon as January came and actually suffered a strong dip YoY through the beginning of the summer. They saw a brief spike with Amazon's Prime sale and have since struggled again.


        No one uses the personal assistants, at least not to speak to. I'm not sure the speakers of the digital assistants are the next thing or will ever be more than niche. I use Siri regularly because of my car and that's it. I have CarPlay. If I didn't, I'd NEVER use Siri. I never use my smart speaker.


        • Avatar

          mebby

          In reply to jrickel96: "Here's the other kicker to consider: talking to stuff is what old people do. Younger people are so used to texting that the PREFER it for input. I deal with a lot of 20 somethings that find ALL the smart speakers to be stupid things. Why say something when you can type it? An intelligent parser interface is something they'd love. They grew up texting. It's a natural way to communicate to them."

          I know. Why talk (to another human)? ...just text.


      • Avatar

        red.radar

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        But as long as Siri works well in the eco-system of apple products I am not sure being number 1 is a big deal. Still interested in Siri even though its lagging way behind, because it has the hooks to work better with IOS.

  30. Avatar

    Bart

    Would it be fair to say that AI's are nothing more than souped-up search engines? If so, Google holds a commanding lead, with Bing second. Any other is simply fud. Including Alexa.


    Off topic: Would love to see more Microsoft / Amazon cooperation. Ie Amazon providing all consumer related entertainment (movies/music/books/audiobooks), perhaps even Xbox related

    • Avatar

      jbinaz

      In reply to Bart:

      I had a similar thought of Amazon basically taking over all MD digital sales/services. That would be awesome.

    • Avatar

      chrisrut

      In reply to Bart:

      "Would it be fair to say that AI's are nothing more than souped-up search engines?"

      No more than saying human intelligence is just stimulus/response; there's more to AI than just the "searching" part of the equation. Telling Alexa to "order me a Pizza" (can it do that? :-) without pre-programming the specific task requires a lot more than being able to search for a pizza joint. But you're right, these emerging capabilities are most often "surfaced" in a search engine's UI: really, the term "search engine" is an anachronism.

    • Avatar

      maethorechannen

      In reply to Bart:

      Alexa uses Bing as it's search engine.

  31. Avatar

    toph36

    I think Paul is confusing the digital personal assistant market and the smart speaker market. There is certainly overlap, but if the 145 Cortana users is accurate, that is not an insignificant number. Ultimately, we will end up using more than one "pda". Cortana can do things Alexa can't and vice versa. I use Cortana primarily, but we do have Fire TV and Fire Tablets. This does make it more likely for me to get an Echo at some point.

  32. Avatar

    Chris_Kez

    I just learned from Tom Warren that "Microsoft already helps power Alexa queries through its Bing search engine." Damn, Bing is sneaky.

  33. Avatar

    PincasX

    I a suspect of that 70% number for Alexa. Alexa is only available in Two languages and the majority of devices that it is used on are only sold in Three countries. Given that Google and Apple offerings are basically world wide with broader language support it is hard to see how they are just at 30% of digital assistant usage. 70% of “smart” speakers? Sure, for now, but now that google and Apple are entering that game I would imagine Amazon is about to get steamrolled. This sounds like the bottom two trying to team up in hopes of fending off the competition. That initial implementation is clunky and makes it seem like they were desperate to get something out the door.

  34. Avatar

    Chris_Kez

    I'm always surprised when I see a story like this break on the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. I somehow expect the intrepid cadre of Microsoft watchers to break all of these.

  35. Avatar

    emanon2121

    Another stepping stone leading to Microsoft removing itself from anything related to the consumer market.

    • Avatar

      Rob_Wade

      In reply to emanon2121: Exactly. Microsoft signed Cortana's death warrant.


      • Avatar

        daveevad

        In reply to Rob_Wade:

        Agreed! Cortana will soon be a backend service for Alexa.


        Put both "Products" on the "Shelf" for the average consumer.

        1. "Windows 10, powered by Alexa!" OR

        2. "Windows 10, powered by Cortana!"


        Which will the general public lean towards, no matter which company's service powers the back end. Alexa has a generally positive "mindshare" while Cortana hasn't been in the conversation.


        I, however, prefer Cortana. But then again, I prefer Windows Mobile too, so...

  36. Avatar

    SteveM

    It's a shame that the reporting on Microsoft stuff often has snide remarks with it. I use Cortana on my PC, Surfaces and Phone and it works great. I am that rare person Paul talks about and life is great.

    • Avatar

      Stooks

      In reply to SteveM:

      I could not agree more. I know he does not like.....Cortona, Groove, Windows 10S, Edge, Skype, Windows Phone. He has recently mentioned coming back to Onedrive but it was Dropbox this and that before. He is a huge fan of basically everything Google.


      Between this negative Microsoft attitude and many technical "mistakes" on the subject matter.....why would someone subscribe to this site?

      • Avatar

        PeteB

        In reply to Stooks: "I know he does not like.....Cortona, Groove, Windows 10S, Edge, Skype, Windows Phone."

        It's not a matter of him liking or not liking. He's a realist and realizes they're dead platforms. They're dead to consumers.

      • Avatar

        calarez

        well, if you dont like his negativity and his view on microsoft, why you keep coming to this blog or watching windows weekly? life would be simpler for you if you stop doing that at all. Im a microsoft fan and I try to use microsoft product but paul is partially rigth, Cortana, grove, windows phone, skype sucks! i have not complaing about windows 10, 10S or edge In reply to Stooks:


        • Avatar

          Stooks

          In reply to calarez:

          Your right I could quit coming here. And I have been less and less because of his attitude. Personally I prefer to go to sites focused on the topic I am wanting get information about, especially those that are "enthusiasts" since they tend to get deeper into the topics.



          • Avatar

            LocalPCGuy

            In reply to Stooks:

            I feel that Paul is still very much a Microsoft fan. However, he also acts as a watchdog. His comments about Windows Phone dying off have proven to be correct. His belief that Windows 10 S will be painful for many is the same view of it. Even MS has that view, evidenced by the built in upgrade path to 10 Pro. i like Paul's reporting, as it is. I hope he keeps it up and continues to show where MS can be better. You can bet that MS also reads his words, and pays attention to them.

            • Avatar

              Stooks

              In reply to LocalPCGuy:

              "His belief that Windows 10 S will be painful for many is the same view of it."


              Paul is so far off base with Windows 10S. Most bloggers are. I think they know that but need "blog fill"


              Microsoft Introduced Windows 10S at a EDUCATION event. The target audience is schools that already use Microsoft products or schools that might be wanting to leave Microsoft for Google to save money. It never was targeted at consumers or business. Every negative point he makes about it does not matter to a school that uses Microsoft products. So what if the students want Chrome on the school computer....if Edge works end of conversation.


              Windows 10S is limited by design for its designed target user base.

  37. Avatar

    jimchamplin

    This really helps me choose what assistant products to look at. Now to see how they integrate...

  38. Avatar

    red.radar

    Its a nice Marriage. Alexa has the IOT/Home automation really figured out. While cortana has access to the user behind the screen.


    Seems like a win. Rare moment of collaboration that benefits consumers

  39. Avatar

    John Scott

    I can't say much about this. Don't really use Cortana much and haven't convinced myself I need a Alexa even though I am a Prime member. For myself I think these devices need to get a lot smarter and less a novelty for me to buy into it. I can already see these deals sort of causing a person to choose sides in what service they want. Possibly excluding you from other service that may eventually support another system. So we will have a Apple, Google, Amazon ecosystem and their partners. I think I will wait and see who ends up with the most partners in this battle.

    • Avatar

      TheOneX

      In reply to John_Scott:

      From my experience these devices aren't really just a novelty, and can be very useful. If you are into having smart things these are absolutely necessary, imo. A lot more convenient then pulling out a phone every time you want to change something. Most people don't have that though. Where Alexa also excels is as a media device. It is a great music/audiobook player. Other than that the only useful features are timers, lists, and events. You are right though, if you don't have smart things, or use Amazon Music/Audible Alexa is pretty much useless and gimmicky.


      My experience with Cortana is different. Cortana isn't very good for media consumption like Alexa can be through amazon services. What it does excel as though is a personal assistant. There are two main reasons for this, until recently Alexa didn't have reminders so you can add events to your calendar, but unless you specifically asked Alexa or went to your calendar you would never know it was added to the calendar. In a recent update they did add reminders, but it still has one major flaw that Cortana does not. Alexa can only give out reminders on an Echo. The Alexa app on your phone is just about useless. It is nice if Alexa can't understand you, but that is about where its usefulness ends. Cortana on the other hand is everywhere. I get Cortana reminders on my computer, on my phone, everywhere. That is something none of the other assistants can claim.


      That last point is really what makes me like Cortana so much. My Alexa really is mostly a glorified radio that can control my lights. It is convenient to just use my voice to control it, but it isn't really anything special otherwise. Cortana though is already a very good personal assistant that does just about everything I want. So as a heavy Prime/Audible user, and a Cortana user this is very exciting news. Hopefully it gets to the point where you don't have to specifically tell it to open the other assistant, and just knows which assistant to open by either saying Cortana or Alexa.



      P.S. That got a bit more wordy then I meant it to be, I'm sorry if it is confusing.

  40. Avatar

    Jules Wombat

    Obviously the front end being Alexa or Cortana is not as important as what are the backend services supporting the client assistant. As the backend servcies are where the real intelligence lives. So with Bing serving both Alexa [?], Cortana and Siri, this is all pretty impressive for the oft derided Bing services.

    Actually a third of Windows 10 users using Cortana, is pretty big number.

  41. Avatar

    gregsedwards

    Would be nice to see a proper Alexa app in the Windows ecosystem. Not necessary for this to work, per se, but seems more plausible now than before.

  42. Avatar

    goodbar

    Interesting though on the assistants working together instead of against each other. It's sort of like having a household staff... Google assistant is your Chaulfeer and Researcher. Cortana is your Secretary. Alexa is your Butler and Personal Shopper. Siri is.... Not sure what Siri's niche is..

    • Avatar

      Skolvikings

      In reply to goodbar:

      I have an iPhone and here are some of the things I use Siri for:


      Setting a timer

      Setting an alarm

      Calling a contact

      Asking it to solve a math problem (although usually I use the calculator app)

      Finding the current temperature in Paris (or wherever)

      Asking it to define a word

      ...


      Yeah that's basically all I use it for.


      On the other hand, using Alexa on one of our two Echo devices we:


      Have it read us bad poetry

      Have it tell us knock-knock jokes

      Have it read us the bible verse of the day

      Play music on Spotify

      Play SiriusXM

      Control our Phillips Hue smart lights

      Discover the population of Houston, TX

    • Avatar

      jimchamplin

      In reply to goodbar:

      DJ. Apple has put a lot of work into Siri related to music and it shows.

  43. Avatar

    goodbar

    Since moving from Windows phone to Android, I ended up keeping Cortana as my phone's assistant, and I am heavily invested in echo devices, so this must be a good thing. I could see this allowing me to use Alexa on my phone in a more integrated manner thru Cortana. If it also allows me to ask my echo device to send directions to my next meeting to my phone running Cortana that would be great.

  44. Avatar

    Simard57

    that is all I need - my personal digital assistants talking about me behind my back!

    yes I am joking

  45. Avatar

    Jim Lewis

    Funny thing about Paul is we never hear him lamenting how Apple is missing the boat with Siri and the HomePod, not due out 'til December. And things must not be going great over there at Apple as the head of Siri development just got changed. I guess Paul's response would be, "But Apple has a great mobile platform. It can take it's time and get it right like it always does....." (or something like that). If the race for ambient AI is all so important for the future of computing, how come we never hear about his take on how things are going at Apple....????


    Another problem with Paul is that he got an Echo and sent it right back. If he's really going to pontificate, he ought to have thoroughly tested Echo against Google Home against Cortana, etc. I have because I'm probably finally going to leave my Lumia 950 XL behind and go with a Galaxy Note 8 and I want to know if I should run Cortana on my Android device or go with Google Assistant (and Bixby). In a number of ways on general answers and integration with Microsoft apps that I like and use everyday as a "consumer," e..g, OneNote, Wunderlist, Calendar, Outlook.com, People, Cortana is superior to both Alexa and Google Home. Plus it coordinates well with Windows PC and tablet devices that I use. So I would agree in many ways that partnering with Amazon is a we're-trying-hard-to-come-from-way-behind admission but I don't think, if Cortana A.I. turns out to be superior to everyone else's that Cortana is dead. Right now, I can't count on Alexa to answer many questions that Cortana easily can. If a Cortana speaker device never sees the light of day, I'll still be constantly asking Alexa on my Echo devices to fire up Cortana and Microsoft will be earning nanodollars from my searches and queries undoubtedly. I do think Google Home has everyone else beat on the quality of its voice when providing AI answers, though. My wife (who is Chinese) says that the quality of its translations into Mandarin are excellent and sound like a real human speaker. So there is the distinct possibility that Google Home may win me over completely in the end but using it, I feel it's point is to sell me stuff (it only has one list and that's found in association with a Google shopping site) whereas I don't feel that impetus from Cortana - but if selling stuff is the key to success, maybe Microsoft needs to be more like Google and Amazon in that regard to stay afloat.


    Furthermore, on Windows Weekly this past week, neither Paul, Mary Jo Foley, nor Leo Laporte could very well answer the question as to whether Alexa depends in good part on Bing search (she does). Nor were they aware that Siri and Spotlight apparently are powered by Bing Search whereas Safari searches are Google-powered (Apple is undoubtedly happily pocketing A LOT of money from both Google and Microsoft to be on Apple devices). So these days when I tune in to Windows Weekly to hear gurus explain it all, I am more often than not disappointed to hear, "Duh?! We don't know the answer to that question...."


    To me, it's a very interesting question as to how Alexa can rely on Bing searches and can't answer many question that Cortana can. I'm not sure why Bezos is happy with such an arrangement unless Alexa just does really well in all the things that are going to make Amazon money and he's happy to leave the rest to Microsoft. Maybe Paul, Mary Jo, and Leo Laporte will do their homework and we can hear more about it in detail on Windows Weekly at some time in the future. Right now, they are just beginning to scratch the surface of that topic and I wish they would cover it better, in more detail.

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