MICROSOFT'S Head of snake oil, Satya Nadella, has given two very strong hints as to the company's consumer direction for 2019.
Meeting journalists this week at his Redmond lair, he gave the strongest hint yet that Windows could gain a subscription offering, bundled with other Microsoft products such as Office 365 and Skype for a single fee.
"It's very fair to say, as I said in the very beginning, that we started after all on the consumer side and then over-indexed to the IT side, and we definitely are very focused on bringing that back," explains Nadella in a fairly incoherent-without-the-context explanation during which he cited Surface as a good example of commitment to punters, not just companies.
Referencing Bing, he said: "We have all kinds of strategic flexibility to do things that would perhaps be more amenable to both the end users as well as the advertisers and publishers, so we expect to do things even in that space"
Then comes the hint: "What we are doing with Office 365 or what we will soon be talking about as Microsoft 365 consumer subscriptions, those would be again completely consumer businesses."
Meanwhile, the INQUIRER can claim vindication as Nadella also confirmed that Cortana, which was uncoupled from the search functionality in Windows this week has lost the war of the voice assistants, and will likely continue as a "skill" for Amazon's Alexa, and Google Assistant, if the latter shows willing.
Hinting that a change could come alongside any subscriptions, he said: "Cortana needs to be that skill for anybody who's a Microsoft 365 subscriber" before adding, "You should be able to use it on Google Assistant, you should be able to use it on Alexa, just like how you use our apps on Android and iOS so that's at least how we want to think about where it'll go."
This isn't a huge shock. Cortana has always played second fiddle to its rivals and has already signed a reciprocal agreement with Amazon for Alexa.
At launch it was made clear that Cortana was meant to be "everywhere" but despite this, Microsoft has kept out of the burgeoning smart speaker market, in favour of utilising the always-on devices such as desktops and Xboxes already in its arsenal.
That plan seems to have failed, with customers preferring a tangible piece of hardware, and now it appears that Microsoft is ready to wave its white flag - at least to an extent.
In that sense - it's a lesson to us all. ARE YOU LISTENING SAMSUNG? Cough… BIXBY… cough…. μ
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