Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, has announced that the Cortana smart home is no longer a competitor of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Speaking at a media event, Nadella explained that the Cortana is shifting from a physical smart home platform to a skill for Microsoft 365 subscribers, Microsoft’s paid subscription plan that includes the entire Office suite. In addition to being a skill on other smart home platforms, Cortana is also an app for iOs and Android.
“Would we be better off for example to make Cortana a valuable skill that somebody who is using Alexa can call? Or should we try and compete with Alexa?”
Nadella said at the event before concluding that Cortana needs to be a skill for Microsoft 365 subscribers. Like Amazon Alexa, the Microsoft Cortana can answer questions, play music, and link to connected devices. As of last summer, the Cortana can communicate with the Amazon Alexa. For example, a user could ask Alexa to open Cortana, and from there can use a combo of Alexa and Cortana simultaneously. Microsoft Cortana also integrates with smart home products like Ecobee thermostats, the TP-Link Kasa smart plugs, and IFTTT.
On top of Cortana’s shift to a skill, Microsoft is focusing on consumers rather than businesses for Microsoft 365, Nadella continued. “It’s very fair to say as I said in the very beginning that we started after all on the consumer side and then over-indexed to the IT side, and we definitely are very focused on bringing that back,” he said of the paid subscription. More consumers using Microsoft 365 means a larger Cortana network, as users ingratiated in the Microsoft Office 365 suite can use Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to check their schedules, set reminders, get the news, and more. “Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us,” Nadella said in a press release in October 2017. “Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”