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Microsoft’s personal digital assistant is in trouble. She no longer has a native smartphone platform, her native PC platform is being invaded by Amazon’s Alexa client, and her incarnation as a smart speaker is going nowhere.
It appears Microsoft is aware of the challenge, as they have parachuted in an executive with a proven track record of success to take charge of the division.
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, is since February 2018 corporate VP overseeing Cortana. He will be reporting directly to Harry Shum, Microsoft’s head of AI and research.
Soltero specifically wanted to take on a task which only a big data company such as Microsoft could solve.
“It’s exciting. It’s challenging,” Soltero told Axios. “It’s candidly not what I expected would happen.”
Of course with big data comes big privacy concerns, and Soltero is aware of concerns around the issue and the fine line between usefulness and invasiveness.
“A very private but mediocre experience will not win,” he said. “The real contest is about which company users will choose and entrust with essentially all of their information or the majority of their information.”
Given the rapidly maturing smart personal assistant landscape and the massive headstart of Amazon and Google it remains to be seen if even a young and energetic executive can turn the tide. At least however it seems Microsoft is ready to give it their best shot.