Alexa is coming to PCs, according to numerous reports. Acer, ASUS, and Lenovo are all working on computers with Alexa support built in, meaning you’ll be able to ask your PC a question the same way you ask your Echo.
It makes sense: Amazon’s Echo has been selling very well, and it’s natural for OEMs to want some piece of the virtual assistant market. Adding a third party tool is the best way to get this done, because it’s not like Microsoft added a virtual assistant to Windows back in 2015.
Oh wait. They did. It’s just that no one uses it.
OEMs are adding a third party voice assistant to PCs because they think that’s a feature that will help them sell computers. That says a lot about how much confidence Acer, ASUS, and Lenovo have in Cortana.
Microsoft Pushed Cortana, Hard
We know that Microsoft really, really wants you to use Cortana. The evidence is right at the bottom of your screen.
The Windows 10 taskbar is among the most valuable billboards in tech: it’s seen by hundreds of millions of users every day, sitting at the bottom of the screen pretty much constantly. So using this space to promote a product is no small commitment for Microsoft.
Since Windows 10 came out, one feature has dominated this space. Look at this:
The Cortana box is given the most prominent space imaginable, sitting at the right hand of the famous Start button. It’s also huge, about the space of six regular icons.
Microsoft is aggressively using its most valuable real estate to promote Cortana.
And it goes further. Cortana is now the face of the Windows installer, asking users questions directly during the initial setup. Microsoft even named the assistant after a beloved character from the once popular Halo franchise of video games.
It’s obvious Microsoft put a lot of energy into promoting Cortana, but when’s the last time you actually used it?
If you’re like most people, you gave it a shot, and maybe even looked up a few lists of things you can do with Cortana out of curiosity. But ultimately, you probably ignored the thing, and maybe even looked up how to hide the Cortana icon entirely to free up some taskbar space.
And that makes sense. Cortana just isn’t useful enough for anyone to consider changing their habits. Reddit and Twitter are littered with examples of Cortana refusing to answer a basic question, or otherwise getting things wrong.
Wish Win 10 would use Win 7 search function. Cortana only makes it more complex. When you can't "find" an installed app that is UX #FAIL
— JeffNoricks (@JeffNoricks) October 25, 2017
— Mrinal Sinha (@TheMrinalSinha) October 7, 2017
— Jason Heiser (@breaker119) September 22, 2017
Microsoft put everything they had into promoting Cortana, but at the end of the day, it’s just not useful enough for people to actually use. Microsoft seems to know this on some level. Some features have stopped working, including song recognition, suggesting the service is no longer a priority.
Microsoft has also pursued an agreement with Amazon where Cortana users can ask Alexa questions, and vice versa. Apparently PC makers would rather skip the Cortana middleman and connect their users with Alexa directly.
It’s probably not a bad idea. Anyone with an Echo will have access to the same assistant on their computers, without having to clumsily ask Cortana for permission first. And Alexa can do a lot more than Cortana in any case. So OEMs will add Alexa to PCs, and users might actually use it, all the while ignoring or hiding the massive Cortana eyesore on their taskbar—just like most Windows users have since 2015.