Cortana is losing its head. Javier Soltero, who was Microsoft’s vice president in charge of Cortana is leaving the company in December. He came to Microsoft in 2014 through an acquisition.
Soltero appointed only in March. Before being put in charge of Cortana, Soltero created updated versions of Outlook for iOS and Android. He has led the Cortana team only since March. It’s not clear why he’s decided to leave at this time.
Cortana is integrated into Windows 10 but lacks a native smartphone audience. Microsoft said early last year that the virtual assistant has more than 150 million users across its ecosystem, which includes Windows 10, Android, iOS and the Xbox.
The company also has an SDK strategy (like Amazon and Google) to put Cortana on third-party devices. So far that distribution has been limited. Microsoft and Amazon have worked to make Cortana and Alexa interoperative, with mixed results so far.
Cortana distribution lags vs. rivals. Google has said that the Google Assistant is installed on more than 400 million devices. Apple previously stated that there are 500 million active Siri users around the world. Amazon’s installed base of Alexa users now exceeds 50 million.
While Microsoft continues to be a leader in artificial intelligence and natural language processing, it has a distribution challenge with Cortana. It’s unclear how many Cortana users there are on non-Microsoft platforms.
A potential new direction. Undoubtedly there are multiple individuals at Microsoft who can take the helm at Cortana. Soltero’s departure, however, may suggest a strategy shift for the company.