As we move further into the 21st century, businesses and governments are starting to see the benefits of having AI systems in place to help us model certain probabilities and outcomes, such as weather pattern analyses or stock market analytics.
That’s ideal for institutions with seemingly unlimited funds, but what’s out there for the average Joe looking to modernize their living space with a bit of smart home technology? Amazon, Google, and Apple have all shown or hinted at their own ideas of a digital assistant run from an AI backend, but what is Microsoft doing to take the lead, and can they beat the competition?
Let’s take a look at what is happening in this relatively new market, and who is doing what.
Amazon and its Alexa
Amazon’s Alexa started blowing people’s minds when the digital assistant first came to prominence through the company’s hot seller, the Amazon Echo.
The Echo range of products sold well last year and even saw the Echo Dot as coming out on top of the holiday sales figures for 2016. There are some reports that show over 6 million of these devices sold in that same year.
Not bad for an emerging market for this device type. The great thing about the Alexa platform is that there are many different companies that have seen the value in this technology and are creating devices that can connect to it under license from Amazon.
For now, it seems that Amazon is quite far ahead in this race for AI augmented services and smart home devices, but where are their competitors sitting in all of this, and are their target markets the same?
Google Has Entered the Arena
Google came onto the scene with the Google Home device, which is linked with Google Assistant, and was widely seen as a competent attempt at capturing some of this market share.
Google finds itself in a great position with its product offerings as it has the edge over both Microsoft and Amazon in the field of AI and machine learning, as well as the fact that it has petabytes of search history readily available to allow their systems to notice trending searches.
The search element is key to the success of such devices and is the primary function of a digital assistant in many ways, so Google has a significant advantage here.
The next key to success for Google in this field is the fact that there are nearly 1.6 billion Android users around the globe that in theory, have the potential to run some form of Google Assistant through their Android OS. We already see it being built into their chat app, Google Allo, and the Google Pixel smartphone.
Google’s Android is almost ubiquitous in its prevalence on modern smart devices, from phones and tablets to TVs and media boxes, it is virtually everywhere, and Google is counting on this to help it infiltrate this technology space.
Microsoft Looks For an Opening
According to Microsoft, Cortana is just the ticket for them to get in on the AI and machine learning space through a virtual assistant of their own, and they are determined to make this the preferred option for business people.
Not surprisingly, Microsoft has been busy behind the scenes trying to emulate the likes of Google by sinking a significant investment into the technology, and in many ways have surpassed their rivals, as they are able to show off some intense human-like conversations with their digital test platforms.
Windows is seen on many millions of business-oriented devices, from PCs and laptops to tablets and servers, and the hope is that they will be able to expose their already corporate customer base to their own vision of the digital assistant and thereby attract existing customers to their business-orientated offerings.
This is in stark contrast to Google and Amazon’s offerings, which seem to focus more on home users and consumers that have very little business applications.
It is for this very reason that we should expect to see a strong showing from Microsoft in this market, based on the fact that they are able to plug this service into any corporate network that is currently supporting a Microsoft ecosystem of products such as Microsoft Office and Active Directory.
Where Is This Market Heading?
It’s plain to see now how Microsoft can find itself on top of the digital assistant market. Perhaps the biggest flaw in this plan is the hardware platform that seems to be lagging somewhat, as they are unable to match the numbers of Google devices that are sporting their hardware.
While by no means their only strategy, we can expect the corporate market to be the first adopters of Microsoft’s AI technology. Amazon, Google, and Apple will most likely dominate home markets, with some overlap between these companies into each other’s respective turf.
If Microsoft can keep up the pace of their AI development, then we are in for some exciting business tools in the very near future as the competition starts to intensify.