There are new signs that smart home devices will mainly stick to Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa as their voice assistant options. The GLAS smart thermostat will no longer use Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant, and TP-Link canceled plans to make its Kasa Smart Plug Mini controllable by Apple’s Siri voice assistant.
Ending and Canceling Some Voice Assistant Support
GLAS, developed by Johnson Controls, has until now been the only smart thermostat with support for Cortana. The next software update ends that support. The email from GLAS obtained by Voicebot does not explain any reason for the sudden removal of Cortana from the device, only stating that “Microsoft Cortana voice assistant will no longer work on your device.”
But voice control is still available through Alexa and Google Assistant – it’s only Cortana that is leaving the platform. Cortana’s removal from GLAS is the latest in a series of setbacks for Microsoft’s digital assistant. Microsoft has been slowly repositioning Cortana as more business-focused, and the assistant is being removed from the Xbox One console soon.
TP-Link’s Kasa Smart Plug Mini meanwhile, had not yet added Siri as a control before cutting the voice assistant out of its plans. The plans for bringing Siri to TP-Link’s Kasa Smart brand of smart home devices were first announced at CES this year when TP-Link said it would add Apple’s Homekit to its developer platform. The updates were initially slated to come out earlier this year, but the delay lengthened until this week, at which point TP-Link told users that Apple’s voice assistant was no longer part of its plans.
Alexa and Google Assistant at Home, Cortana and Siri at Work
Both Cortana and Siri have been cementing their places in the enterprise for a while. A large survey last year ranked the popularity of different voice assistants in enterprise and Cortana and Siri sat comfortably ahead of the rest in the number one and two spots respectively.
Microsoft’s shifting focus to businesses for Cortana gained momentum last fall when the Cortana skills kit for enterprise debuted. Since then, interviews with executives coupled with decisions like removing Cortana from Skype integration have laid out the plan for an enterprise and service-focused future for the voice assistant. Microsoft’s bread and butter is business services. The attempt to make Cortana a consumer-centric platform never took off, but it doesn’t make the voice assistant a failure. It just reveals how enterprise IT is a much more comfortable fit for the company.
Siri’s popularity with the enterprise market may be less directly about its enterprise solutions, and more about the familiarity people have with using iOS devices with Siri on them. Apple has been keen to expand its offerings to the enterprise market, making acquisitions that will boost Siri’s range of abilities and overall performance. In February, Apple acquired PullString, whose technology streamlines the way developers can build apps for Siri. Then, just a few weeks later, Apple bought Laserlike, a software firm with the capacity to upgrade Siri’s search and personalization capabilities well beyond its current level.
Enterprise Competition Hasn’t Ended Yet
Alexa and Google Assistant’s dominance in the smart home space is significant, but Amazon and Google aren’t ignoring enterprise opportunities. Amazon rolled out its own business category for Alexa Skill Blueprints in March and Alexa for Business debuted in December 2017. Then, at VOICE 19 in July, the company unveiled its new Skill Flow Builder, which enables non-technical developers to create and prototype Alexa skills with an emphasis on game development but the clear application for other use cases. Google has also been connecting its business services with Google Assistant, integrating its G Suite products with Google Assistant in April. But, while the shape of the market is still fluid, the signs still point to a division in how voice assistants are perceived. Cortana and Siri have the edge on the business side, even as Google Assistant and Alexa become synonymous with smart home control with 30,000 and 60,000 announced integrations respectively compared to a few hundred for their rivals.
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