recommended reading

Microsoft’s New Plan is to Flood Your Entire Life With Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella // Elaine Thompson/AP

“We want to bring intelligence to everything, to everywhere, and for everyone,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told developers earlier this year.

Artificial intelligence has been the company’s touchstone technology since Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual personal assistant was added to Windows more than a year ago. Since then, Microsoft has released a deluge of AI-bolstered features in its operating system and standalone software.

Skype is augmented with real-time translation. You can talk to bots built on Microsoft software on nearly any messaging platform, and a suite of tools for developers mean the apps you use every day can be configured to call a Microsoft server to identify a face in an image or run speech recognition.

The mission is clear: if there’s success to be had with any kind of AI, Microsoft wants to be there.

And then yesterday, at an intimate press gathering in San Francisco, Microsoft’s AI parade continued! The company announced:

It’s a dizzying amount of announcements, especially as they weren’t revealed at one of Microsoft’s large product events. But the mission is clear: if there’s success to be had with any kind of AI, Microsoft wants to be there, and is just as happy copying an existing product (, Amazon Echo) or leading the pack (real-time translation).

For you, Microsoft’s precious consumer, this strategy fundamentally changes what it means to use the Windows operating system or any Microsoft software. You can look forward to living a life in constant conversation with your gadgets.

You’ll be able to chat with bots throughout the day via Kik, Skype or Facebook Messenger for customer service, ask your Cortana-enabled speaker to turn on your lights, and then to tell you if it scheduled plans for you tonight. Rather than navigating densely-packed menus dripping with options for customization, you can ask questions and trust the virtual assistant to lead you to whatever task you want to accomplish.

Microsoft has coined its own term for this: conversational computing. The company sees this shift to be as large as personal or mobile computing, a spokesperson told Quartz.

For some people this isn’t a bad thing—one user spent 9 hours and 53 minutes in one day actively talking with Zo, the company’s latest AI-powered chatbot, going back and forth 1229 times. Nadella said in June that 100 million people use Cortana per month, and estimates say 25 percent of searches in the Windows 10 taskbar are done by voice.

The artificial intelligence and machine learning Nadella talks about also requires massive amounts of data to be collected so that system can understand your schedule or learn your voice. Microsoft has been working on ways to maximize the privacy of user data (and patient data for its AI work in the medical field), but those efforts are limited by the volume of data required by the machine to learn.

Microsoft’s bet on AI isn’t really for consumers today, but consumers next year, five years from now and 10 years from that. Nadella uses the analogy of Gutenberg’s printing press to explain how he sees the technology. He says before the printing press, the world had about 30,000 books.

“And 50 years after the printing press, we had 12 million books. It changed how humans both created information and used information,” Nadella said.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.