Microsoft’s New Age of Intelligence

Posted September 27th 2016


via Fast Company

Nothing is more core to Microsoft’s AI vision than the way it treats Cortana as an agent that—with your consent—can know quite a bit about you, and then share it with specialized bots on a need-to-know basis. (The service currently has 133 million active users across Windows iOS, and Android.) As Nadella explains it, “it’s your data, as opposed to something that’s going to be used for advertising or conflated with other data or transferred over to other apps without your consent.”

That philosophy fits in with Microsoft’s overall emphasis on productivity, but it also helps neatly frame the competition with the other tech giants who are applying AI to vast amounts of data. “Today, we look at people who have the capability we do,” Nadella told me. “There’s one or two—there’s a Google, there’s a Facebook. Some we compete with, some we partner with. Each of these companies has AI, but what do they do with it? Even if we make the same choices about categories, our approaches will be different.”

Much of the work Microsoft is doing with AI centers on repurposing resources that already exist. Fast Company’s Harry McCracken writes, “Facial recognition technology that originated in the Xbox’s Kinect sensor, for example, is now deployed as part of Microsoft’s cognitive services suite, used by companies such as Uber; image search technology initially built for Bing has come in handy for HoloLens.” All this and the acquisition of LinkedIn are positioning the company to operate “everywhere that people get stuff done.”