Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has been on a bit of a tear of late, aggressively pushing into territory dominated by rivals. With the Surface Book and Surface Studio, it stole some of Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) design thunder. Now reports have MSFT preparing to launch its own eBook store, competing with Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). And it’s also attacking Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) on its home turf, bringing Cortana to the Android lock screen.
It’s no secret that Google chose to make its Android operating system free, because doing so would guarantee more smartphones and tablets using Google Search. Since advertising is where Google makes its money, having the increasing number of mobile users remain on its search engine was critical to keeping that ad revenue flowing.
Cortana on Android
Microsoft took a shot at Google when it released Cortana for Android and iOS at the end of 2015. Microsoft’s personal digital assistant uses Bing — MSFT’s search engine — when users ask it to check on something. That bypasses Google Search. And using Cortana bypasses Google Now, Android’s built-in personal assistant.
Now Microsoft is taking Cortana on Android a step further. According to The Verge, the company is preparing a new version of the app for Android that makes Cortana accessible from the lock screen. One swipe and Cortana is ready and listening. That would let Cortana completely replace Google Now by also offering quick access instead of having to fire up the phone and launch an app.
The timing is perfect, because the latest AI-powered Google Assistant is exclusive to the Pixel Phone. That’s leaving some Android users feeling left out. Owners of a smartphone from Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) or any other third-party Android manufacturer, can make a statement by skipping Google Now and switching to Cortana instead.
Windows eBook Store
When you think of eBooks, you think of Amazon. There are other options like Google Play and Apple’s iBooks, but Amazon and its Kindle devices dominate the eBook world. Even if Windows 10 users don’t own a Kindle, they can buy and read Amazon eBooks on their Windows 10 device using the Kindle app.
According to PCWorld, a leaked version of Windows 10 shows MSFT is preparing to take on Amazon by launching a Windows eBook store. The company added EPUB file support to its Edge browser last year — that’s the eBook format used by everyone except Amazon. With that file support in place, buyers could read titles purchased from the Windows eBook store on any device with the Edge browser installed.
This encroachment into Amazon territory comes just weeks after MSFT announced it would take on the popular Amazon Echo with Cortana-powered smart speakers.
MSFT Gets Aggressive
All of these developments show a Microsoft that’s shifting from a defensive strategy to a more aggressive one. It has completed Windows 10 and its efforts to retain PC customers. Now it’s transitioning to a strategy of releasing products designed to win new customers away from competitors.
They don’t have to go all-in on Windows — although switching from an Apple MacBook Pro to a Surface Book would require making the leap. Buying eBooks from a Windows eBook store isn’t going to kill Amazon, but another viable alternative chips away at its dominance. Getting an Android user to dump Google Now for Cortana on Android gets that person on Bing instead of Google Search, which is a win for MSFT and hurts Google. The experience may even be enough to get them to dump Android altogether and switch to a Surface phone, should MSFT ever decide to release one.
And with AI and machine learning looking to be a big part of the consumer technology future, the more people actively using Cortana — including on Android smartphones and Echo-like speakers — the “smarter” Cortana gets. Any advantage there could be pay off big down the road for MSFT.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.