At its big conference for developers on Monday, Microsoft executives were showing what it will be like to live in a world infused with artificial intelligence.
Cortana, the company's digital assistant and its rival to Amazon Alexa and Apple's Siri, is at the heart of Microsoft's effort to embed voice and image recognition into more of its services. Microsoft representatives demonstrated how artificial intelligence could help drones spot anomalies they see from above and recognize the people who come into a conference room for a meeting, speedily transcribing what they say.
Four years into his gig running Microsoft — and after initially proclaiming that the world is primarily mobile-first and cloud-first — CEO Satya Nadella is focused on expanding the powers of Cortana, which is embedded into Windows 10 and has nearly 150 million people using it every month.
But there are limitations, and among them is Alexa's popularity in the home through the Amazon Echo. Recognizing that Microsoft won't be supplanting Amazon, Nadella knows that people who use Cortana for core Microsoft services like email and scheduling need to be able to communicate using their home Echo devices.
"We want to make it possible for our customers to be able to get the most out of their personal digital assistants, not to be bound to some single walled garden," Nadella said, at the Build developer conference in Seattle, as the company demonstrated how consumers will be able to reach Cortana through Alexa, and vice-versa.