'Dumb as rock:' Microsoft CEO scolds voice assistants Alexa and Siri

Satya Nadella claimed the devices just "don't work."
Loukia Papadopoulos
Are voice assistants incompetent.jpg
Are voice assistants incompetent?


In a revealing interview with the Financial Times, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called the first wave of voice assistants "dumb as a rock.” The assistants referred to were digital assistants such as Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Microsoft’s own Cortana.

The comments marked a stark contrast to Nadella’s statements in 2016 that said the "bots are the new apps.”.

"They were all dumb as a rock," he told the news outlet 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."

In April of 2018, a study found that Google Assistant was the "smartest" digital assistant on the market. Digital marketing experts at Stone Temple conducted a smart speaker quiz to evaluate the different voice assistants available at the time.

To conduct their extensive research, they posed nearly 5,000 questions on five separate devices: Alexa, Cortana Invoke, Google Assistant on Google Home, Google Assistant on a smartphone, and Siri. The research was thoroughly conducted, laying out specific parameters for the "contestants" to answer the same questions. 

Several parameters tested

One parameter would evaluate if the answers given by the assistants were received from a particular database or if they were sourced from a third-party source like Wikipedia. They also recorded how often the assistant didn't understand the question.

Finally, they took into account every time the device simply got the question wrong. 

Google Assistant attempted the most responses out of all services and got the most responses correct. However, it should be noted that a lot of the errors for both Alexa and Siri came from poorly phrased questions.

Siri did not perform as well as her competitors, as she still only attempted to answer 40 percent of all queries asked of her. She also fell behind in getting the answers correct.

Cortana, on the other hand, nearly outperformed Google Assistant in several instances, including in the number of questions answered. However, Microsoft discontinued the use of the app on Android and iOS in 2021.

That same year, Nadella claimed that he no longer saw the product as a competitor to Alexa or Google Assistant.

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