Axios is reporting that Javier Soltero is moving from leading the Microsoft Office product group to taking the reigns for Cortana. Soltero is now listed on LinkedIn as corporate vice president for Cortana. A VentureBeat article also stated that Cortana is now available on 400 million devices which may be the bigger news.
Apple has recently stated that Siri is available on over 500 million devices and Google announced in a blog post that Google Assistant is available on 400 million devices. Of course, don’t confuse devices with users. Siri claims only 375 million monthly active users, Microsoft has said 145 million are active on Cortana. Google has not released a figure on users. However, these are large numbers for active users in any event and accessibility on large numbers of devices simply means the voice assistant has broad distribution. For users with multiple devices, the voice assistant is conveniently available. Where the device owner is not a current user, the company simply needs to persuade the consumer to try the voice assistant on a device they already own. That is an easier process than getting them to first purchase a new device like a smart speaker. Cortana’s availability on Windows 10 devices and Xbox represent a real advantage if the company can induce consumer trial.
The Link Between Office and Cortana
It is worth noting that the person looking to induce more consumer trial of Cortana is transitioning from the Microsoft Office team. Office is a prestige product within Microsoft with over one billion global users. For an executive to shift from that post to Cortana is an indication of how the company views Cortana and its future. Soltero told Axios:
It’s candidly not what I expected would happen…If I was to leave Microsoft and start another company I would be doing something related to voice.
Beyond prestige is the practical matter of how Cortana can best compete in the market. Microsoft’s key asset is its reach into businesses around the globe and its central position in email and office productivity applications. The company has not succeeded to date in generating consumer sales of smart speakers with Cortana nor has it found a viable path to grow usage on smartphones. What Microsoft can do it play to its strengths and optimize Cortana for business use cases. This market is wide open and deep integration with Microsoft Office would be an immediate differentiator. That is what Jeff Bezos clearly saw when he initiated the Alexa-Cortana collaboration.
Soltero’s Microsoft Office background makes him well suited to implement this strategy for Cortana. He will report to Microsoft’s head of AI and research Harry Shum. That combination of AI, voice and business productivity could be a winner for Cortana.
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