A quick review of the Cortana app this morning shows there are now 55 Microsoft Cortana skills. Google and Amazon often dominate the headlines for their respective Google Assistant and Alexa voice assistants. However, Microsoft had several big announcements just two weeks ago at its Build developer conference and the company is making steady progress on adding useful skills for Cortana.
Skills You Already Know
For people familiar with Alexa or Google Home, you will recognized many of the current Cortana skills. Domino’s Pizza, Dark Sky, Food Network, OpenTable, Safeco and Progressive Insurance all make the top of Cortana’ non-alphabetical list. Others include Nick Schwab’s Bargain Buddy, Ask My Buddy, VentureBeat and iHeartRadio.
Cortana Slides Into Alexa’s Slipstream
As of this morning, Amazon has 11,903 Alexa skills and Google has 266 Actions for Google Home and Assistant. Google also has a number of smart home integrations that don’t show up as distinct actions so its count is likely a little higher.
When Google formally launched the Actions on Google software development kit (SDK) in December it claimed just over 50 Actions that included many high profile brand names. At the time of Build, Voicebot counted 44 Cortana skills and there are 55 today so it looks like they are adding about a skill a day. Google has been adding about 40 Actions per month since December. Amazon has added about 1,000 Alexa skills per month during that period, but the rate of growth started to decline in April.
You can see the different approaches that Google and Microsoft have taken to start catching up to Amazon’s early lead. Google has focused more on big brand names and ensuring high quality voice applications. Microsoft saw the large developer ecosystem that Amazon had developed and decided to make it easy for Alexa skill developers to port their skills to Cortana. In an email to Alexa skill developers that Voicebot was first to report on in March, a Cortana team member commented:
We’ve made it easy to reuse the code, language models and cards you’ve created for your Alexa skill — and your Cortana skill will work across platforms and devices.
Finding Skills in Cortana
One thing that is a little challenging in the Cortana app (and the Google Home app for that matter) is finding the list of Cortana skills. First select the settings icon in the upper right of the screen. Then select “Notebook.” Then select “Skills.” Then you will see a screen of skills you have tried, but will need to select “Discover more skills,” to see a full list of available Cortana skills. Yes, that is an exhausting workflow. Let’s hope it improves soon. Skill discovery is as important for user experience as total number of skills so should merit a lot of attention. Here is the screen flow for your convenience.