Join Transform 2021 for the most important themes in enterprise AI & Data. Learn more.
After nearly a year of waiting, Amazon and Microsoft this week brought Alexa to Windows 10 PCs and Cortana to Echo speakers.
Overnight, the move delivered Cortana to millions of Echo speakers and Alexa to hundreds of millions of personal computers in the United States. The Echo line of smart speakers continues to enjoy the largest market share, and Windows 10 is installed on nearly 700 million computers.
The partnership was made in recognition of the fact that we live in a multi-assistant world.
“The world is big and so multifaceted. There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement when the partnership was announced last August.
The idea makes sense. I’m ready for a world in which assistants feel more like apps you access on a platform rather than standalone operating systems.
I’d like to have to have an assistant dedicated to fitness, like the kind Google is reportedly working on, or one to help with cooking or meetings, maybe even one for dating or matters of personal growth.
Personally, I’d rather have assistants informed by mountains of data within an area of expertise than one with a range of moderately developed features that tells jokes.
The multi-assistant world is a narrative that works for Amazon and Microsoft and startups who want to enter the AI assistant space, but that point of view may be about more than the evolution of AI assistants. Their assistants need to live in a multi-assistant world, whereas Google Assistant and Siri arguably do not.
Google and Apple‘s assistants don’t need to branch out because they enjoy a monopoly where it matters most: in your pocket.
Smart speakers are growing at a rapid rate, with global sales up 187 percent in Q2 2018, but the smartphone is still far and away the device people are most likely to use when speaking with an assistant. This has been shown to be true in survey after survey after survey.
Unlike Microsoft and Amazon, Apple and Google have the option of tethering multimodal experiences to speakers and iOS or Android mobile operating systems.
That’s not to say companies like Microsoft and Amazon don’t stand a chance. As smartphone sales go flat, smart speaker sales are expected to grow sixfold in the years ahead. In fact, smart speakers represent an opportunity to disrupt the dominance of smartphones and change consumer behavior on a massive scale.
An Accenture survey of 21,000 consumers around the world found that the majority of smart speaker owners are less likely to use their smartphones for tasks like entertainment, purchasing, and general searches while at home.
Google has maintained its lead over Amazon in global smart speaker sales for the second quarter in a row, but it’s been suggested that Google should give away Home Minis for free because Amazon’s presence in millions of homes with Echo speakers could eat into Google’s search and shopping revenue.
Even being the native assistant on a smartphone doesn’t guarantee victory in the fierce competition for consumer loyalty. The assistant still has to, as Cortana product lead Javier Soltero put it, win the Pepsi taste test challenge for users.
Exclusive features that take advantage of each companies‘ unique attributes could lead to people preferring Google Assistant because Duplex is so good at automating appointment scheduling or favoring Cortana because its natural language understanding has been advanced by the work of Microsoft’s new conversational AI center at UC Berkeley. Could you imagine if Cortana got incredibly smart about LinkedIn and GitHub insights? That would be powerful and is something only Microsoft can do.
But barring some sort of extraordinary developments, assistants in smartphones still enjoy a key advantage.
We’ll find out in time if people actually use Cortana on Echo speakers or Alexa on Windows 10 PCs, or whether doing so changes expectations about how assistants should function. But no matter how this experiment is received, the smartphone is still the primary place people interact with an AI assistant, and not even a collaboration between two of the biggest tech companies on the planet can change that — at least for now.
Thanks for reading,
AI Staff Writer
P.S. Enjoy this fun video about how to create an inspirational quote generator with machine learning.
Google’s ostensible answer to Amazon’s screen-touting Echo Show and Amazon Echo Spot launched earlier this year: smart displays. But if rumors are to be believed, the Mountain View company is prepping a first-party product ahead of a reveal later this year.
Market analysts at Canalys claim that the smart speaker market grew 187 percent in the second quarter of this year, and that China is poised to overtake the U.S. in terms of growth.
Intel has acquired Vertex.ai, a startup developing platform-agnostic machine learning tools, for an undisclosed amount.
Y Combinator is planning to launch a startup accelerator in China. YC China will also have its own CEO: artificial intelligence champion Qi Lu. The former Baidu and Microsoft executive will also act as head of YC Research, which will open offices in Seattle. “One of the things that Qi and I really bonded over was […]
Google is reportedly developing an AI assistant that tracks not just your workouts and activity, but your nutrition.
An AI system created by Google’s DeepMind Health, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and University College London (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology can correctly determine how to refer optometry patients in 94 percent of cases, putting it on par with top human experts. The advances in AI-driven eye disease treatment were detailed in a study […]
A new Apple patent hints at a multiuser, highly individualized Siri experience on iOS devices and the HomePod, the Cupertino company’s smart home speaker.
The controversial Project Maven received a 580% funding increase in this year’s bill. As AI and machine learning algorithms are integrated into defense tech, spending is only going to increase in years to come. (via Fast Company)
Automated tools can now accurately identify the author of a forum post for example, as long as they have adequate training data to work with. But newer research shows that stylometry can also apply to artificial language samples, like code. Software developers, it turns out, leave behind a fingerprint as well. (via Wired)
Companies are cutting supply chain complexity and accelerating responsiveness using the tools of artificial intelligence. Through AI, machine learning, robotics, and advanced analytics, firms are augmenting knowledge-intensive areas such as supply chain planning, customer order management, and inventory tracking. (via HBR)
Coral Triangle could be key to conserving the world’s reefs as Indonesia corals survive worst coral bleaching event in history. (via The Guardian)
VentureBeatVentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact. Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:
- up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
- our newsletters
- gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform
- networking features, and more