MICROSOFT IS PREPARING for a new broom at the top for its Cortana voice assistant division, with current AI boss Javier Soltero set to step down.
The former boss of Acompli, the mobile email client which was purchased by Microsoft in 2014, has been running the voice assistant project since March 2018, but now looks set to depart before year-end, as the internal restructuring at the company continues.
ZDNet reports that as part of attempts to widen the appeal of Cortana from bot to quiet concierge, it will now fall under the Experience and Devices team, led by Rajesh Jha.
Certainly, it feels like this is something of a demotion for the assistant in Microsoft's priority list. With so much of the voice assistant functionality covered off by the unholy alliance with Amazon Alexa, it feels like Cortana is ready to hold up its hands and evolve to survive.
The departure, which is yet to be formally announced, comes at the end of a stormy four-year tenure in which he is said to have railed against the status quo more than many colleagues were prepared for.
The ZDNet report suggests that Soltero is more superfluous than just redundant and will leave Redmond altogether to go back into entrepreneurship, after unofficially confirming his departure in a series of tweets on Tuesday.
Further reports (oh, that Mary Jo, tenacious to the last) suggest that after working with senior engineer Perry Clarke, the reorganization could culminate in a single engineering team across Search and Cortana.
Microsoft has repeatedly declined to share any of this information officially, but with Soltero making his own announcement, there's very little doubt that any of this will change.
So what next for Cortana? The news today seems like fairly concrete evidence that the company has accepted that it's time to adapt to survive. 2019 is going to be interesting. μ
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