Microsoft no longer views Cortana as a competitor to the Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa, and the priority has changed to make it a skill that works within other digital assistants across a variety of devices.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted the change this week, per The Verge, saying the vision for Cortana is now as “a valuable skill that somebody who is using Alexa can call.” Nadella wants to position Cortana as a must-have app for Office 365 that works with other companies’ smart speakers.
“You should be able to use it on Google Assistant, you should be able to use it on Alexa, just like how you use our apps on Android and iOS, so that’s at least how we want to think about where it’ll go,” Nadella said at a media event attended by The Verge.
As Amazon and Google battle to get their digital assistant in millions of devices, Microsoft’s Cortana has fallen behind, especially when it comes to smart speakers and other hardware. A Cortana executive last year said the company is playing the long game with its virtual brain, and Nadella has compared digital assistants to web browsers, saying they need to work together.
Microsoft is working with Amazon to integrate their respective digital assistants, and it’s worth watching to see if Microsoft and Google will pull off a similar deal. Alexa is getting deep into the Microsoft ecosystem, as the digital assistant now works with mainstays like Skype and Xbox.
Under Nadella, Microsoft hasn’t been afraid to de-emphasize areas that aren’t paying off, and that certainly seems to be happening with Cortana. In the latest Windows update, Microsoft will separate Cortana from search and mute it during setup.
These changes come a few months after Microsoft’s Cortana chief left the company.