It was impossible to avoid all the products at CES which had voice assistants either baked right in or which could be controlled by them. Amazon’s Alexa was featured on numerous products, and Google Assistant was in just as many devices. Google even had people, cleverly called Google Assistants, in a great number of booths to specifically talk about how their technology integrated with the product being shown. Readers at the DMZ know that those aren’t the only voice assistants. Microsoft’s Cortana is a powerful, full-featured, service that is baked right into every Windows 10 PC on the planet. There are also apps for it on Android and iOS. Walking the show floor at CES however you’d be hard-pressed to say that Cortana is a thriving ecosystem.
We lost track of how many booths had Alexa and Google Assistant labels in them. Especially when wandering into a smart home technology vendor’s booth, one or both of the leading players were almost always supported. We took time to ask most of them if they had considered adding support for Cortana. In a few cases, the vendors said it was a technology they were evaluating, or that it was somewhere on their roadmap. In most of our conversations though we were told that they had no plans of integrating Cortana. There were even a couple vendors who had never even heard of Cortana. Maybe the starkest example came from a booth that Harman Kardon had set up at a private media event. Their very own Invoke, the only Cortana-powered speaker on the market, wasn’t even on display.
Microsoft appears to be in damage control mode. During CES they released a post to their Windows Blog stating that more devices are coming to market in 2018. We know HP is working on a speaker, and last week Johnson Controls announced a thermostat, but none of that will be enough to save Cortana. The fact of the matter is that CES is the biggest consumer electronics event of the year. The vast majority of players in this space use the event to announce and showcase their plans for the calendar year. If we were actually going to see a glut of Cortana devices in 2018 we would have seen something, anything, at CES.
It’s a shame really. Cortana seems to be yet another great Microsoft-produced consumer technology that is dying a premature death. The final battles have not been waged in the smart voice assistant war, but the chances of Cortana making a late charge to the top of the stack seems ever more unlikely.