Microsoft looks ready to widen its Cortana Skills Kit availability as of next week, simultaneous with its Build 2017 developer conference in Seattle.
Microsoft has published its schedule and session descriptions for many of its Build 2017 talks via its official Build schedule builder mobile application. (I downloaded a version from the Google Play Store today for my Android phone.)
The session list includes several Cortana Skills Kit-themed sessions happening Wednesday May 10 and Thursday May 11.
The Cortana Skills Kit allows developers to make use of services and/or bots created with the Microsoft Bot Framework and publish them to Cortana as a new skill. Developers using the kit also will have the option of repurposing code from existing Alexa skills. Microsoft has been working with a group of developers using the private preview of the Cortana Skills Kit for the last few months.
On May 10, Microsoft is holding a session on how to get started with Cortana Skills development, with basic information on how to design, create, test, and publish Cortana Skills from scratch using the Azure Bot Framework. Another May 10 Build session will demonstrate how Gigseekr, a live-music discovery service, used the Bot Framework, Azure Search, new Cortana Skills, and LUIS.ai to enable natural-language queries.
On May 11 at the show, Microsoft will hold a Build session on how to build voice-first and voice-only experiences, and how to implement these using the Cortana Skills Kit. Another May 11 session will provide a how-to regarding combining the Cortana Skills Kit with other Microsoft AI services business scenarios.
Cortana has a long way to go to match rival Alexa on the skills front. Amazon opened up Alexa to developers nearly two years ago, allowing them to build new Alexa features that work with Amazon's Echo, Dot, Tap, and other third-party devices. There were already 10,000 skills available for Alexa as of February 2017.