Microsoft has announced a new platform for its voice assistant – Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise, aiming to promote Cortana in the office context.
A recent survey conducted by research firm Pindrop shows that 28% of businesses have already used voice features in their workflows, and for those that haven’t, 85% are planning to integrate voice assistants within the next year.
Since most businesses use Microsoft for their IT infrastructure and cloud computing, Cortana does have an advantage in the B2B market, while Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant dominate the consumer market.
Microsoft wants to let companies build their voice own skills based on their existing Microsoft applications and solutions.
The Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise contains the Microsoft Bot Framework and the Azure Cognitive Services language-understanding technology. If a company already uses Microsoft’s bot chatting service, it can transform it into a Cortana voice skill, Microsoft claims.
Furthermore, IT departments in businesses will be able to control Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise using Azure Active Directory, with which they manage user identities, and determine when the skills are deployed and who can access them.
Microsoft offered some examples of how Cortana may help in offices. The assistant can turn an IT request form into a simple command like “Cortana, ask IT for help with my laptop.” The query can then be handled by a chat bot and transferred to IT staff if human intervention is needed.
The voice assistant may also help coordinate multiple employees’ schedules and set up meetings.
The Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise is being released to developers by invitation only. The company said it will become more broadly available “in the near future.”
Another tech giant Amazon also has the Alexa for Business platform, a place where Alexa is used in the office. WeWork, a co-working space rental service, has integrated Alexa for conference room reservation and management team support request filing. Currently Alexa has been found in corporate applications including Salesforce, Concur and ServiceNow.
Cortana only had 230 voice skills developed by the end of 2017. To make its push into the office more easily, the voice assistant might need to have more applications in practice to demonstrate value.