Welcome to CES 2018 also known as Microsoft Cortana's funeral

PC makers start adding Amazon's Alexa to their systems. If Microsoft's Cortana can't win on a Windows PC it's unlikely to reach other touch points in the smart home and office.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

If Microsoft's Cortana can't win on a Windows PC where can it? At CES 2018, Amazon's Alexa assistant is being added to Acer, Asus and HP systems with more likely to follow.

A year ago, Amazon's Alexa everywhere strategy rolled out. At CES 2018 (see latest via CNET), Alexa's footprint is expanding throughout the smart home and via partnerships.

Cortana's future has increasingly been looking shaky as a front-end assistant. To wit:

Now Microsoft's Cortana does have a few smart speaker and thermostat wins, but its distribution is flooded by Alexa as well as Google Assistant.

Simply put, Microsoft lacks the mobile, smart home and digital speaker footprint to provide touch points for Cortana.

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And now Cortana is now sharing time with Alexa on the PC in a development that can't be good for Microsoft. At CES 2018:

  • Acer said Alexa will be coming to select Aspire, Spin, Switch and Swift notebooks as well as an all-in-one PC. Alexa arrives in the first quarter with wider support in mid-2018.
  • Asus will add Alexa to select ZenBook and VivoBook laptops.
  • HP said it will add Amazon Alexa to its Pavilion Wave compact desktop.

Now Cortana may not disappear completely, but it'll be more of a back-end enabling technology that will ride along with a set of artificial intelligence tools. But Cortana won't be used as initially described. As Mary Jo Foley recently noted:

Microsoft seemingly has been trying to more clearly position Cortana over the past several months. As originally introduced, Cortana was basically a prettier front end for Bing search. By doing this, Microsoft didn't make it clear that Cortana also was a key piece of Microsoft's plan to infuse its apps and services with intelligence provided by AI services on the back end.

In any case, Cortana's future needs to be outlined better. At first glance, it's clear that Cortana is losing the digital assistant name game.

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