Microsoft gives up Cortana’s fight against Alexa and Google Assistant

Microsoft’s chief executive has admitted that Cortana isn’t being positioned to compete directly with the likes of Alexa or Google Assistant.

Rather than aiming to rival these digital assistants, Satya Nadella takes the view that Cortana should be built to integrate with the competition, and for example, become a handy skill for Alexa users to benefit from.

As Business Insider reports (via Betanews), Nadella observed: “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.”

He then observed that you should be able to use Cortana on Alexa or Google Assistant devices just like you use Microsoft’s various apps on Android or iOS. And going forward, the prospect of Cortana-powered hardware like smart speakers is unlikely, too.

Nadella commented: “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?”

Microsoft has previously admitted that it was late to the virtual assistant game with Cortana, and last year shared a vision of turning Cortana into an ‘assistive aid’ rather than an ‘assistant’.

Assisting other digital assistants

So it seems that Cortana is now being viewed more as a complementary asset for other virtual assistant ecosystems, rather than a viable standalone digital assistant in the home.

Cortana will doubtless still be pushed within Windows 10 and Microsoft’s own software ecosystem, although even in that respect, the company appears to be taking a different approach.

For example, there has recently been talk of being able to replace Cortana with a third-party assistant like Alexa in Windows 10 (Amazon’s assistant already comes integrated with a select number of Windows 10 laptops and desktop PCs).

And in the latest preview version of Windows 10, Cortana has been split away from the search box on the taskbar, demoting her importance and position in the overall scheme of the operating system. Clearly enough, big changes are afoot when it comes to Microsoft’s virtual assistant.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).