Since early February 2018 43-year-old Javier Soltero, previously Co-founder and CEO of Accompli before Microsoft purchased it and turned it into Outlook for Android and iOS, and who rose to the top of the Office team as Corporate VP of the Office Group, has been heading the division in charge of Cortana, Microsoft’s digital personal assistant, and today a lengthy interview was published by Venturebeat in which he gave some insight into his strategy for success going forward.
Despite being several pages long, Soltero did not let much slip, but he once again confirmed that the Cortana/Alexa integration promised for last year, and repeatedly pushed back, is not ready to ship yet, saying the companies were still trying to figure out “How do those two assistant experiences relate to each other? How and where can they coexist for the benefit of the user?”
Saying Microsoft was “not just going to hurry up and ship something just to satisfy” users they promised the feature to, he said “everyone now understands that the importance to do this right outweighs the need to just show some stuff right that we want for the sake of both companies and their users to do something valuable.”
Amazon has, of course, stopped waiting and instead chosen to develop an Alexa app for Windows, which is being distributed via PC OEMs and which will instead compete directly against Cortana on those devices.
When asked what made Cortana more than mediocre Soltero was not able to clearly answer the question, but alluded to a unique advantage in the enterprise setting when it came to compliance and trust, saying “earning the trust of organizations is not a matter of bringing a device into a room and dropping it on a table.” We have of course seen similar arguments fail to prevent the iPhone and Android form taking over in the enterprise.
Soltero said Microsoft “overpivoted on the platforminess” of Cortana, by which he meant setting it up as a platform for developers using the Cortana Skills Kit. Microsoft is of course very far behind other platforms when it comes to 3rd party skills and Soltero said Microsoft has now “sort of refocused the organization” and was looking more at making Cortana directly useful for users.
An area of particular focus for this is using Cortana to read the commitments you make in your email, reminding you of them in at the right time, and in the future helping, you fulfil them.
“It’s stuff we’ve shipped and is out there; it’s stuff thats going to get I think significantly better as part of us really pushing to say “Finish the scenario.””, he noted.
I suspect this will work well when it comes to “Send flowers to Maggie”, but probably not for the more complicated work knowledge workers are paid well for.
The full interview can be read here.