Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana ‘Dumb as a Rock’, Says Microsoft CEO

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a recent interview with the Financial Times that the first generation of personal voice assistants, including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s own Cortana, were all “dumb as a rock” (via Insider).

“They were all dumb as a rock,” he told the Financial Times last month. “Whether it’s Cortana or Alexa or Google Assistant or Siri, all these just don’t work. We had a product that was supposed to be the new front-end to a lot of [information] that didn’t work.”

Siri and Google Assistant are still in service today and widely used, with the latter considered the best of the bunch. Alexa is still around as well, although it is struggling.

Cortana, however, never really took off since Microsoft couldn’t establish a foothold in the smartphone space. It was ultimately discontinued on Android and iOS in 2021, being relegated to Microsoft’s home turf of Windows.

That said, all of the digital assistants we’ve known until now absolutely pale in comparison to generative AI like OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The conversational chatbot, powered by OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 large language model, is capable of writing creative content like songs and poems, coding, and, well, conversing.

Siri co-creator Adam Cheyer told the Financial Times that ChatGPT’s ability to understand complex information makes existing voice assistants look stupid, noting that “the previous capabilities have just been too awkward.”

While ChatGPT is far from perfect (it is quite prone to “hallucinating” and confidently presenting fiction as fact, for example), it has made massive waves since going public late last year. The chatbot made history in December by crossing 100 million active users in record time, and it has triggered an AI arms race that has seen tech giants across the globe announce or unveil their own AI-based alternatives.

Microsoft, which is heavily invested in OpenAI, quickly capitalized on ChatGPT’s success by unveiling its new, ChatGPT-powered Bing search engine and a slew of other AI-powered chatbot products last month.

“The new Bing,” as Microsoft called it, is based on an advanced GPT model from OpenAI that Microsoft said is “more powerful than ChatGPT.” Bing is now essentially ChatGPT with real-time internet access, giving it the ability to draw from an ever-increasing pool of information.

What’s more, Microsoft recently added voice recognition to Bing on both mobile and desktop, putting its “copilot for the web” in an even better position against conventional voice assistants.