Today, a small gathering led by Harry Shum held an event in San Francisco to discuss AI interactions. During which, the executive vice president of Microsoft's Artificial Intelligence and Research group assisted in announcing the new Cortana development tools: Cortana Skills Kit and Cortana Devices SDK.
According to the recent Windows Apps Team blog post, there are over 145 million Cortana users across many different platforms. The effort to expand and grow this number directly correlates with the recent dev tool announcement.
With the Cortana Skills Kit, app developers will be able to repurpose Alexa skill, creating new Cortana skills across Windows, Android, iOS, Xbox, and Cortana-powered devices. The private preview of the kit was presented during the AI event today with highlights from Knowmail, Capital One, Expedia, and TalkLocal all using this new kit with the Microsoft Bot Framework.
Furthermore, the introduction of the Cortana Devices SDK private preview will let OEMs and ODMs create personal devices for everyday productivity. Perhaps the most interesting feature includes a two-way audio communication integration through Skype, Email, calendar and lists. The SDK is currently able to support Windows IoT, Linux, Android, and open-source platforms.
As a teaser, audio manufacturer Harman Kardon provided a sneak peek at a device using the Cortana Devices SDK planned for release next year. For some, this almost confirms suspicions that Cortana could be aiming to compete with Amazon's Echo. Even so, Microsoft mentioned during WinHEC that Cortana would be limited to IoT objects with displays.
Given how the Windows 10 Creators Update is shaping up, 2017 is already looking to be a significant year for Microsoft. Both the Cortana Devices SDK and the Cortana Skills Kit are in private preview with the intention to become publicly available around February 2017. Until then, OEM/ODM interest in the SDK update can fill out a form and app developers can sign up for a chance to get in.