Reuters is reporting that Microsoft is getting ready to make Cortana, its digital assistant, available on Android and iOS as an app. This possibility was first raised in a Microsoft SMX Advanced keynote conversation last year.
The Reuters article also discusses a Cortana-linked, artificial intelligence project called “Einstein.”
At the time of SMX Advanced Microsoft wasn’t ready to consider the additional distribution. However under CEO Satya Nadella, the company has decided to roll out its products, including Office, more freely to other platforms rather than have non-Microsoft users adopt alternatives.
Reportedly a Cortana app will become available later in the year. Cortana was supposed to help differentiate Windows Phones and boost sales. However to date it has not succeeded.
In key markets such as the US and China, Windows Phones have failed to grow market share. As of this January, according to comScore, Windows Phones had a 3.6 percent share in the US. Mobile internet traffic from Windows Phones is less than 2 percent according to StatCounter.
As I argued in my Voice Search session at SMX West, the “digital assistant” metaphor will ultimately replace “search” as connected devices and experiences proliferate. Indeed, search will be like the “Intel inside” of digital assistants. Microsoft is already starting to do this with Bing as the “intelligence engine” powering Cortana.
Consumer surveys indicate that although not yet as widely used as search, digital assistants are building an appetite and expectations for a broader array of what I would call “transactional services.” In a post today Microsoft highlights the positioning of Cortana as a lifestyle companion: “Never miss another workout with Cortana”
In research released by Google last October, people were asked to “pick one thing you wish you could ask your phone to do for you.” Just under half of teens responded “send me a pizza.” This is fun information but it also illustrates the desire to complete tasks and conduct transactions rather than generate a list of search results.
Of the three “assistants” Google now has the highest satisfaction ratings according to 2014 survey data from Thrive Analytics.
As Cortana moves to rival operating systems and as Microsoft adds more advanced features and capabilities it will motivate Google and Apple to improve their assistant capabilities as well. In fact it would be beneficial for everyone if that started a digital assistant “arms race.”
Of the three products Siri is the one that probably needs the most work.