Qi Lu, a former AI expert at Microsoft recently shared some interesting details in a Wired interview. To give you a general overview, he says that Microsoft has continuously struggled to compete with Amazon's Alex voice assistant.
In the interview, he said that “I worked on Cortana four and a half years ago. At the time we all were like, ‘Amazon, yeah, that technology is so far behind.'” But looking at today's AI standings, it seems that Amazon is well ahead. “Google and Microsoft, technologically, were ahead of Amazon by a wide margin. But look at the AI race today. The Amazon Alexa ecosystem is far ahead of anybody else in the United States. It’s because they got the scenario right. They got the device right. Essentially, Alexa is an AI-first device,” Lu said.
What's more interesting is that Lu believes both Microsoft and Google “made the same mistake” by focusing too much on phone and PC for voice assistants. Instead, they should have focused their efforts in providing the service as a standalone with further integration options. “The phone, in my view, is going to be, for the foreseeable future, a finger-first, mobile-first device,” Lu explains. “You need an AI-first device to solidify an emerging base of ecosystems.”
Microsoft may have fallen behind, but it's still making pushes to get Cortana into more devices. For example, later this year, Harman Kardon is introducing a Cortana-powered speaker. Microsoft is putting in more effort to push Cortana into many more devices. Moreover, Cortana will run on many Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as cars, thermostats, and fridges.