Last week we learned that Microsoft was hoping to compete with Amazon’s Alexa by including Cortana in the Windows 10 HomeHub. The idea appeared to be that consumers would use the Cortana voice assistant through a PC serving as a home automation center. BGR’s Chris Mills was skeptical about consumer adoption of this approach and laid out four reasons why this strategy will likely fail.
Microsoft got the memo. Well, actually we can assume they were already working on alternative approaches. Terry Myerson, EVP Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, mentioned in a blog post yesterday that project Evo includes collaboration with Intel on, “Far-field speech communications so you can ask Cortana a question or play a song from across the room.”
The Verge reports that, “Microsoft is partnering with Intel to allow device makers to create hardware that incorporates the latest artificial intelligence with Cortana, and the ability to support far-field speech communications and wake on voice.” This sounds a lot like an Echo competitor in the making. Intel has some expertise in this area. Last week Intel announced a reference design for manufacturers looking to incorporate Amazon’s Alexa into their devices. That design is expected in early 2017. It would be logical for Intel to offer reference designs to manufacturers for a variety of AI-base voice assistants and not be solely tied to Amazon.
Microsoft’s Terry Myerson in an interview with The Verge commented, “There’s a lot of enthusiasm for wake on voice [sic], devices with far-field voice capabilities, devices with small screens, large screens, and no screens at all.” The article by Tom Warren went on to conclude, “Microsoft isn’t announcing any devices itself this week, nor are the company’s device partners, but the company is signaling it’s ready to allow Windows and Cortana to compete against Amazon’s Alexa.” Agreed. More to come in 2017.