Cortana’s coming out party

Orlando, Fla. – When last we caught up with Cortana, she was billed as a rival to Siri. Since her introduction, Cortana has grown up a lot. At the Worldwide Partner Conference 2015, Cortana was now billed as a personal assistant by many Microsoft officials.

One of the new things about Cortana that Microsoft released was the Cortana Analytics Suite, a fully managed set of services aimed to help business decision markers transform data into intelligent action.  

On a basic level Cortana can help you retrieve a forgotten file, while giving you the right time in China. But in a real world business scenario Cortana can operate as a right-hand man or woman. The Cortana Analytics Suite integrates with Cortana, the digital personal assistant.

Microsoft marketing manager Bryan Roper gave this business scenario at the Worldwide Partner Conference: An executive chef of a major hotel restaurant is focused on delivering a great food experience, while the kitchen manager works to track orders for the next evening dinner service. The kitchen manager in Roper’s scenario is a deep knowledge worker who reports to the executive chef and uses apps to manage expenses and data in a Windows 10 environment. The kitchen manager sees there is a large order coming with several dietary restrictions. The chef, meanwhile, is in a predicament because he wants to prepare a great food experience for this group but is unsure of the ingredients he has available to him and his team.

Roper says that the chef and the kitchen manager can ask Cortana about how to best align inventory with orders. They can also ask Cortana to show them all the reservations to better help the chef and other cooks with meal preparations. Cortana displays for them that many of the patrons are vegetarians. Cortana even informs them on where these people are located and the region’s cuisine.

The chef can ask Cortana for the top vegetarian dishes from those regions. Cortana may reveal that Eggplant Parmigiana is the top meal from where these people are from, but that the restaurants inventory of eggplant is perilously low. In this situation Cortana would instantly ask the Chef and the kitchen manager if she should process more orders for that food product.

“Microsoft wants to expose Cortana to more real workflows like this one,” Roper said.

“You can ask Cortana to order more eggplant, but Cortana can analyze your pipeline and say to the chef looks like sales will be increasing in the next two weeks for Eggplant Parmigiana. Do you want me to order more eggplant to address this increase in demand?”

In terms of a channel partner market opportunity with Cortana, Julia White, GM of the Microsoft Office division, said this is a brand new market for the channel in corporate accounts. The channel could envision Cortana integrating with other tools such as Delve, Skype and CRM Online to get that pipeline information and customer information.

“This is about powering productivity, improving business processes and having Cortana help them meet for a better experience,” White said.

The Cortana Analytics Suite has not been released yet. Jason Brommet, Microsoft Canada channel chief, told CDN that one of the priorities for the Canadian team would be to get the partner readiness programs in place ahead of the launch date later this fall. It will be available as a monthly subscription.

“Partners will require a different set of skills…there is a different set of capabilities here that they can take advantage of,” he said.

Cortana Analytics Suite brings together machine learning, big data storage and processing with perceptual intelligence such as vision, face and speech analysis, extending predictive and prescriptive capabilities that tries to handle a range of industry scenarios such as the one provided by Roper.

Cortana will be available to Windows Insider Program participants in even more areas soon. Cortana will debut ‘this summer’ in Australia and Japan, and in English in Canada and India. By the end of this year, Cortana will be available for WIP participants in Mexico and Brazil, and in French in Canada.

This is in addition to the fact that, with the launch of Windows 10 on July 29, Cortana will be available in seven countries – the U.S., UK, China, France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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