Cortana may not have seen the same sort of success as digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, but Microsoft now sees those platforms as an opportunity for success, not competitors. At a media event reported by Business Insider (via OnMSFT), Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that the company wants to position Cortana as a skill for Alexa and Google Assistant, opening up valuable integrations for Office 365 subscribers.
In his remarks, Nadella dismissed the idea of competing with Alexa directly. Rather, he cited Cortana’s potential as a valuable skill:
Would it be better off, for example, to make Cortana a valuable skill that someone who is using Alexa can call? Or should we try to compete with Alexa? We, quite frankly, decided that we would do the former. Because Cortana needs to be that skill for anyone who is a Microsoft Office 365 subscriber.
And you should also be able to use [Cortana] on Google Assistant. You should be able to use it on Alexa, just like you use our apps on Android or iOS. So that’s at least how we want to go.
We are very mindful of the categories we enter where we can do something unique. A good one is speakers. To me the challenge is, exactly what would we be able to do in that category that is going to be unique?
While Microsoft does have at least one Cortana-powered smart speaker on the market, the Harman Kardon Invoke, it never managed to take off. On the other side, Amazon and Google have managed to stake a claim on a significant portion of the market with their ecosystems of smart speakers and displays. Cortana is also generally more limited in its skillset than Alexa and Google Assistant – though it is tightly integrated with Microsoft’s own services.
Microsoft has already started working hand-in-hand with Amazon, bringing Cortana and Alexa closer together and allowing Echo devices to interact with Xbox One consoles. Whether Google and Microsoft can work out a similar partnership remains to be seen.