The untold "app gap" story Part IV: Going from (A)pps to (B)ots

Our ongoing analysis of the data presented in the 2015 US Mobile App Report, as reviewed in this series, clearly reveals an "app gap" story that is rarely, if ever, told by most tech media. That is the story of human behavior.

Human behavior in relation to apps is a critical factor that must be considered when presenting the quantity and quality variables of the app gap equation. Through an analysis of the data beginning in part I and culminating here, we've clearly seen the unfolding of a tale that reveals that the app gap for the average smartphone user, based on human behavior, is far less impactful than many surmise.

We've also seen that we are moving from a user initiated app and app store dependent personal computing model, to a proactive artificial intelligence and bot supported paradigm. Yes folks, there is a shift underway and artificial intelligence and bots may become an almost seamless bridge between or physical and digital lives.

The story thus far

We began this series by sharing that the average smartphone user's mobile app behavior reflects a rather limited focus on a core set of apps despite a plethora of more than 1.5 million apps available on the dominant platforms, iOS and Android.

The data revealed that more than 90% of the average smartphone user's time is spent in their top six apps. It further revealed that the majority of the top 25 most engaged apps across, social, entertainment, and retail categories are available on Windows Mobile. Utility apps are also well represented on the platform.

Moreover, the average monthly downloads of apps per user (approximately one per month according to the 2014 Comscore Mobile app report) is exceedingly low despite app numbers exceeding 1.5 million on the leading platforms.

Additionally, app discovery efforts across all age groups and discovery methods are also minimal. The highest representation, which comes from the most engaged group (millennials), is a mere 27% of the smartphone using population using the app store for discovery. This number only decreases across other discovery methods and demographics.

We've also seen how human behavior and the current app and app store model are an inefficient and ineffective pairing. The mobile web has proven to be a much more highly engaged platform than mobile apps.

A comparison of the Top 1000 Apps vs. the Top 1000 mobile web properties show a surprising result. Not only do mobile web properties have audiences more than 2.5X the size but these audiences are also growing twice as fast.

This data revealing our mobile web behavior helped to paint a clear picture of our mobile "web" and "app" relationships for certain scenarios. Many smartphone users are deferring to the mobile web when they venture beyond their top six apps to utilize some service or perform some "in the moment" function for which they have no installed app.

The "human-web-relationship", as we shared in Part III, is more ingrained within us than the newer "human-app-store-relationship." As such, rather than searching for, downloading, locating on a device and initiating an app that may or may not be used again, many users simply defer to a service's web site for those "in the moment" needs.

This model works synergistically with a mobile-first, cloud-first computing environment.

This behavior positions users to benefit from the context- and intent-aware artificial intelligence and bot-model tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft are working to usher in, as well as startups like Viv. This "app 2.0" personal computing paradigm, if successful, will work synergistically with a mobile-first, cloud-first personal computing environment where a users mobility of experiences are managed via a ubiquitous intelligent cloud.

This proactive AI and cloud combination will be able to initiate a bot and user interaction that will be far more efficient than the current user-initiated "warehouse of apps" model smartphone users and the industry currently rely upon.

Bots rising

Microsoft has made deliberate moves to make itself a platform for app development. The extension of this initiative through the Bot Framework positions the firm to take advantage of what may come to be seen as the "post-app" model. Through artificial intelligence and machine learning the new user interface will indeed be the digital assistant which we will engage via voice as well as other methods such as ink, text and touch.

Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella gave a sweeping overview during Build 2016 of the scope of Microsoft's Bot Framework and Conversation Canvases, which are the broad and deeply integrated tools and platforms to accommodate this ambitious goal. Nadella stressed Microsoft's position as a platform company when he said, "We want to make things so that others can make things. That is our broad platform approach."

This platform model positions Microsoft's strategy to have industry-wide implications due to it's breadth, depth and comprehensive cross-platform approach. Developers who embrace the new bots as apps model (where appropriate) and Microsoft's platform will begin to view the user's experiences across all of their devices rather than the one or two platforms commonly targeted under the current model. Nadella said it this way:

Mobile-first and cloud-first is not about the mobility of any single device it is about the mobility of the human experience across all of the devices and all of the computing in our lives.

Nadella also stressed the importance of the cloud which is the backbone and power of the evolving personal computing AI and bot powered landscape:

Cloud is not a single destination it is a new form of computing that in fact enables that mobility of those experiences across all our devices. It infuses those experiences with intelligence. Because it has the ability to reason over large amounts of data using a distributed computing fabric. That's the mobile-first, cloud-first world for which we're building.

It is clear that Redmond is pooling its resources in artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep neural networks, voice, natural language processing, search and more to herald in the "post-app" age of artificial intelligence and bots. The AI and bot strategy addresses the aspect of infrequently used apps. This system will recognize intent and engage bots without the need for a user to search a store for a certain app or store certain apps on the device. Cortana will, in effect, be the ubiquitous, cloud-residing "app for that."

Google's Instant Apps provide a more immediate solution to this same challenge. Though Mountain View, too, has a refreshed AI investment in Google Assistant.

It's been a long road

Microsoft has been on this journey for many years. An intelligent system that not only understands the user and their intent but is also capable of proactively providing the user's needs has been Redmond's goal since the ill-fated, "no-ubiquitous-internet-locally-constrained-before-its-time" Microsoft Bob. Still Steve Ballmer's statements in a July 11th, 2013 memo (opens in new tab) reveals that what Nadella presented at Build 2016 has long been in the works at Microsoft:

"Our machine learning infrastructure will understand people's needs and what is available in the world, and will provide information and assistance,"…"We will be great at anticipating needs in people's daily routines and providing insight and assistance when they need it. When it comes to life's most important tasks and events, we will pay extra attention. The research done, the data collected and analyzed, the meetings and discussions had, and the money spent are all amplified for people during life's big moments."

These statements are supported by Bill Gates's words from a 2013 Research Faculty Summit where he said:

As everyone gets essentially what we'd call the personal agent—it's been talked about for decades and now really is possible—we see where you're going, we see your calendar, we see your various communications, some of those communications we can actually look at the tags, look at the speech, try to be helpful to you in your activities,"..."I think that we will be more connected, so that when somebody wants to find a gift of a certain type, or take a trip in a certain way, that there will be a closer match."

Microsoft's goal is to integrate pervasive intelligence across its ecosystem. Additionally, with cross-platform development such as Cortana on iOS and Android and intelligence incorporated into other cross-platform apps such as Office and Skype, as well as the cloud Redmond aims to present a ubiquitous intelligent platform for developers to target.

What you need, when you need them

The "mobility" of this intelligence across devices and Conversation Canvases avails developers of a target for their apps that provide for both predictive and proactive engagement of those apps. In a nutshell, user-aware AI such as Cortana will proactively connect users to a developer's app based on user intent and context. Marcus Ash, Group Program Manager for Cortana on Windows, demonstrated such an interaction at Build 2016:

Naturally such a model where context- and intent-aware intelligence proactively connects with "bots as apps", and promotes app/bot-user-engagement based on context and intent is a much more compelling model into which developers can invest than the current app model where an app can be "lost" among the many.

Context- and intent-aware intelligence proactively promotes app/bot-user-engagement.

Without a doubt, Microsoft's decade's long investment in natural language understanding and machine learning will come into play within this new AI, and bot supported environment. As a leader in this technology with the support of a dedicated search engine backbone in Bing, Microsoft has an advantage over rivals like Facebook and Viv who are also pursuing AI and bot technologies. Google, however, is also a contender with its industry leading search engine and recently announced Google Assistant and intelligent messenger Allo.

The industry's transition from a user-driven app focused model to an AI supported intelligent bot model is a natural evolution of the mobile personal computing landscape. This model allows for intelligent agents such as Cortana to follow and learn a user across devices and services via the cloud which fits well within the paradigm of Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform, their family of evolving Windows 10 devices and the firms cross-platform development.

Microsoft's aggressive push to rule personal computing

Cortana is the app for that

Even with some 91% of a user's smartphone time is spent within a selection of six apps, most venture out beyond those top six on a regular basis. Bots as apps (if Microsoft is successful with courting developers) will meet the need of those "not deeply engaged or infrequently used services" that often don't earn a place on a user's device as an app or that are seldom engaged once there.

Services that are currently facilitated in large numbers via websites or those activities beyond a user's top six apps can be relegated to artificial intelligence and bots. Banking apps, retail apps such as the Walmart, or habitual daily use apps like the Dunkin Donuts app and thousands of others fit in this category.

Cortana may be able to proactively engage a bot based on a users routine.

The Dunkin Donuts app, I understand, allows a user to place an order when they are within close proximity of Dunkin Donuts. Imagine a scenario where a user on his or her way home from work says, "Hey, Cortana order me a large black coffee when I get in town." Cortana who knows your route and the Dunkin Donuts you pass everyday, engages the Dunkin Donuts bot (based upon geofence data that alerts her that she is now in appropriate range for the DD app) to place the order. That's pretty slick.

Imagine applying Cortana's current proactive suggestion model to this scenario. Cortana can learn a users routine and proactively engage the user when she detects that he has left work.

Cortana:" Would you like me to order your usual when we get in town?"

User: "Sure"

Cortana: "Ok, got it." (As she seamlessly engages the Dunkin Donuts bot in the background)

This sounds like science-fiction, I know, but so did talking to a digital assistant in a powerful pocket-sized touch screen computer fifteen years ago.

Bots will fill the gap beyond top six apps

As the data has shown the current, "warehouse of apps" app model does not work efficiently with human behavior. The 2014 Comscore Mobile App Report shows that 7% of the smartphone using population downloads 50% of the apps. When incorporated into the rest of the population that averages to just one download per user per month.

This data is supported by app discovery activity data that reveals a mere 27% of the smartphone using population (millennials) uses the app store to discover apps as shown in the 2015 Comscore Mobile App Report. This number decreases significantly across other discovery methods (friends, ads, etc) and demographics.

When we look at this data in conjunction with the data of high mobile web engagement, which is 2.5 times greater than mobile app engagement, human behavior in relation to how we engage services beyond our core apps emerge.

Millions of smartphone users are deferring to websites to accomplish many functions rather than committing time and energy toward searching an app store to find and download an app to render the service.

Bots will eliminate user's reliance on the inefficient "warehouse of apps" model.

Given the stats of high engagement of web properties via smartphones, proactive web-connected intelligence that understands context and intent will promote a businesses or developers services to a user, surfacing them and making user's more aware of an internet of useful content. AI such as Cortana or the coming Bing Concierge Bot will broker the interaction between that user and the services bot eliminating a user's dependence and industry's reliance on the inefficient "warehouse of apps" app store model. AI intelligence, such as Cortana will in effect become the "app for that." Developers will find this model more rewarding as it uses multiple sources such as the internet, user behavior, context and more to promote app engagement in a way that the current user-driven model cannot.

Apps 2.0, bots, a more engaging model

This strategy may win developers in that it presents an app model that, at least on paper, will elicit higher levels of "app" (as bots) engagement than the current app model.

With Microsoft's platform for Universal Windows development, a developer who embraces this bot vision can also target the range of Windows 10 devices with UWP apps. These downloadable apps may be desired by some users who engage the "bot version," thus increasing a developer's depth and reach with users.

Microsoft's cross-platform development tools in conjunction with the Bot Framework, and Conversation Canvases like Skype creates a platform where a developer can target every OS from within Microsoft's centralized environment.

Microsoft's comprehensive development platform can make its ecosystem more attractive to developers.

Thus, Microsoft's comprehensive approach to development makes not only it's tools more attractive, but can also create a comfortable developing environment that ultimately makes Microsoft's ecosystem more attractive. Developers using Microsoft's tools may begin to view all platforms, including Windows as a single "mobile" target as they use Microsoft's "single" platform for development.

App gap? Microsoft has a platform for that

If Microsoft's retrenchment strategy is successful, the app Bridges and the company's strategic positioning of Windows as a comprehensive platform for app development will garner support for the present app model and thereby build a foundation of developers for the future of "bots as apps" model.

This is just the beginning

Cortana Intelligence Suite will let you build bots

So is there an app gap? In relation to the "face value" definition of a quantity and sometimes quality disparity between the leading apps stores and the Windows Store, yes, there is. In relation to the often inferred and accepted definition that the app gap means a greatly inferior experience if a consumer chooses Windows Mobile and therefore should avoid the platform; based upon human behavior in relation to apps and what apps are statistically used most by the average user, the app gap becomes surprisingly far less apparent.

Microsoft is facing all aspects of the app gap problem, wisely, from a forward-looking perspective. Though the app Bridges and other developer-courting attempts reach toward a more immediate solution, Redmond's far-reaching Bot Framework and Conversation Canvases strategy is indeed future focused. Nadella conceded as much when he shared that Microsoft is only at the beginning of this journey during his Build 2016 keynote. But before you dismiss this with eyes focused solely on the present, consider how far we've come and how fast we got here since the iPhone changed the game in 2007.

The future will be here before we know it. And when we are interacting with artificial intelligence such as Cortana as naturally as we do one another, and bots facilitating our digital activities are as commonplace as our current "touch to launch an app" is today, we may be asking with all sincerity, "App gap, what app gap?"

Jason Ward

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

  • Thanks again for reading folks! We are indeed moving to what seems to be the next user interface for the cloud centric mobile environment! AI and bots certainly looks to be a better fit for what the data shows to be the behavior of the average US smartphone user (though the data may also reflect the behavior of users of other demographic as well) than the current app model. So what are your thought? LET'S TALK!!!
  • curious, do they have this sort of Data available for mobile games? I would be interested in how different the stats are in that area.
  • Don't you think that Microsoft should change their marketing strategy? I mean, no UWP, nor a perfect system or nothing will attract nobody to the system other than advertising. I never saw a Microsoft ad, this keeps the idea that Microsoft has few users and devs have no interest on making apps for few users, don't you think so? I think that the major mistake here is the lack of marketing, cuz with increased marketing more people will buy and increase market share, raising devs attention on the platform and thus closing the app gap.
  • I agree with you. Microsoft may be the only company that thinks they can sell phones without an advertisement. I've only seen one Lumia commercial and it was for the 1020 and it was a great commercial (the one with the childrens play and the iphone and android users duking it out to get closer to the stage), why is there not one for the 950XL which has nearly all of the features that the newest iphone lauds as unique.
  • If MS were proud of the 950/950xl phones and W10m there would be advertising. Feel free to figure that out for yourself. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • The lack of ads for the x50 Lumia's is part of the retrenchment strategy. These phones are made only for "fans" and are not intended to attrack new users. By not advertising MS saves a lot of money and they can keep the losses/costs under control. Basically, for the time being, MS has chosen a path of less sales with no losses over more sales with big losses. I suppose the losses they were making without significantly increasing their marketshare was no longer sustainable.
  • Nope!
    They agreed on leaving room (2016 2H) for the OEM - based on (a software co.) Microsoft <> Macrohard
    Alcatel OneTouch, HP, NuaAns, etc will start "The Clone Wars". :-) 2017 1H: one Business Lumia aka Surface phone - one could call it Lumia 960 / 960 XL ?
  • They have to port android apps to windows 10
    mobile not to PC
  • They have to port android apps to windows 10
    mobile not to PC
  • Everybody knows lumia phones but they are not interested in it cuz of app gap
  • Yep!! But the app hap it's getting leas very very soon!!
  • I tested MS bot framework + azure and created a silly telegram bot in less than an hour. And with just a few clicks I could deploy it to Fb skype webchat sms and so on, almost with no effort. Then I could add AI with Luis. In other words MS created something incredibly powerful, still I have to understand how it could replace apps.
  • Paul Thurrot said of Windows Central articles like this one in response to someone's comment: "Those articles are emotions masquerading as ideas. Windows phone doesn't have an app gap. It has an app canyon."
  • That's why I blocket the "Black Hole Paul"
    No news - bad journalism - but smart: salary doubled!!! (envy?)
  • You just don't like the message.  Paul Thurrot is very even handed in his Windows assessments.  He tells it like it is, unlike this blatent spin that does nothing more than attempt to rationalize away the app gap.  It exists and it's real.  How much time you spend in an app is really irrelevant.  Assuming you have one, how much time do you spend in your banking app?  A paultry amount when compared to your social media apps, I'd wager.  But not having an app available for your bank IS exemplary of the app gap.  You may not spend hours in the app, but lacking one when compared to the iOS and Android offerings is frustrating and inconvenient.  And don't get me wrong - I'm a WinMo user and fan.  But to pretend that there is no app gap or to pretend that it's of minor importance is simple denial.  What percentage of the adverts do you see where the App Store and Google Play logos are front and center, and not a mention of a Windows app.  I'd say about 99%.
  • Hi @Ahy Actually there is no rationalizing away of the app gap at all. As a matter of fact virtually every installment in this series begins with a candid acknowledgement of the app gap in it quantity and sometimes quality manifestations. I also bolstered that acknowledgement with my own anecdotal collisions with the app gap. Moreover, I also referenced Microsoft's attempts to resolve this gap that we all, including Redmond, sees by way of the app bridges and making itself a platform for app development and even in a future focused way - bots and AI. I even ended this series and this piece with the following: "So is there an app gap? In relation to the "face value" definition of a quantity and sometimes quality disparity between the leading apps stores and the Windows Store, yes, there is. In relation to the often inferred and accepted definition that the app gap means a greatly inferior experience if a consumer chooses Windows Mobile and therefore should avoid the platform; based upon human behavior in relation to apps and what apps are statistically used most by the average user, the app gap becomes surprisingly far less apparent." The data I presented in this series in no way disputes that a numeric and sometimes quality gap exists, it simply adds another dimension to a well known and well rehearsed story. The thing about this is that the information I presented regarding human behavior in relation to the well known numeric and quality app disparity's can coexist. They are not mutually exclusive. I presented in an even-handed and candid manner information to the table that we can all chew on without knocking anybody's plate off the table. :-) And I did so rationally with consistent references to data. I think that we can all agree that the most emotional place on this site is often here in the comments whether directed at an author, other commenters or people who don't even venture here:-) The irony here is I candidly acknowledge the app gap and simply add another dimension for us to all think about. Sometimes a new thought is the most difficult thing to introduce into a setting where disappointment, aggravation, loss of patience, a sense of betrayal -emotion- coupled with a story that is well rehearsed and deeply ingrained, exists. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts. -------------------------------
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • If you truly acknowledge that there is app gap, then do so.  Why even use words like "in relation to the 'face value'"?  What you've encounterred yourselves is app gap, an inconvience to the users on this mobile platform.  And at of end of your article, you should've said "what are apps" instead of "what app gaps" - it just sounds like you are trying to use something that might happen as your proof that there is no app gap now.
  • Hi PF Mail thanks for the question.:-) Here it's simple. I've looked at that app gap in three different definitions. Here's the opening paragraphs of Part II that makes it very clear. It is the impact of the third categorization of the app gap that is challenged by the data for the AVERAGE smartphone user as I've asserted throughout this series. Her you go::-) 1. "The term "app gap" suggests a numeric disparity exists between the number of apps available on iOS and Android and that of Microsoft's Windows Store. 2. However, as I mentioned in "Part I of this series: Human behavior, the overlooked variable" , the term "app gap", has evolved to also include a "quality of app" factor. Thus "app gap" now carries the additional connotation that there is a quality gap between some of the apps of the dominant platforms and Microsoft's. 3. There has, however, been an even more dramatic evolution of the term. Due to how it is presented in most reporting without the context of how the average smartphone user (at least in the US) behaves in relation to apps, "app gap" has further evolved to mean a dramatically inferior or nearly unusable smartphone experience if a consumer chooses Windows Phone.
    Though not explicitly stated this way clear recommendations away from Windows Phone and other inferences strongly imply this" Bases on the data of how the AVERAGE user uses mobile apps, the above third definition is not necessarily true or the impact far less than most surmise for the AVERAGE US smartphone user. Thanks again for the discussion.:-) -------------------------------
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • Also, PFMail. I neglected to address you last point. My apologies. Please revisit that last paragraph when you have an opportunity. Note the "tense." In writing one can use, past, present or future. I clearly shifted to what a future outlook might be when I said: "The future will be here before we know it. And when we are interacting with artificial intelligence such as Cortana as naturally as we do one another, and bots facilitating our digital activities are as commonplace as our current "touch to launch an app" is today, we may be asking with all sincerity, "App gap, what app gap?" I remained in that future, forward looking tense until the close with the last phrase you highlight. The point was to say our "future selves" if this technology goes as Microsoft (and other tech giants plan) we may then ask the question, "App gap, what app gap" since AI and bots would have transitioned to a prominent (though not exclusive) form of human-digital interaction. There is no attempt in that text to suggest that outlook is being positioned to claim there is currently, at present, no app gap. Thanks again for the discussion!:-)
  • Ahy
    Did you reply to me?
    In Finland the app gap is the other way around.
    Besides Paul the Black Hole is ultra negative and lies a lot.
    He does absolutely NOT tell "how the things are".
    Opinions and blatant lies are two different things.
    Poop is poop is poop.
  • Interesting series Jason, was a very good read though that never surprises me when I see a notification pop up for your articles! In my view I think this quote is the most important foundation "Mobile-first and cloud-first is not about the mobility of any single device it is about the mobility of the human experience across all of the devices and all of the computing in our lives.", Satya gets a lot of flac for this and pretty much everything else, but really what vision could be more profound than this? For years this kind of cross platform mentality has been my dream and the way I see it Microsoft is not just the only company that is really pushing for it but they are the only company capable of achieving it in this decade. I like the idea of boys and I think they will play an important role in the future but I still feel wide adoption of that kind of technology is at least 10 years away, as usual though Microsoft is years ahead and I hope they keep pioneering in the field and don't get caught out by competitors. Posted from my Lumia 950
  • I too think "boys" will play an important role in future.
  • You got that point :D
  • Thank @mbrdev. Yeah, Nadella is looking at the broad scope and if we really look at his efforts with the company he wants MS to be the platform for "everything": app development, computing(via the cloud), even in the auto sector MS is taking a platform rather than "dashboard" approach, cross-platform apps, etc. As I shared before, "they'd rather own the ocean we're on than the boats we're in. :-) -------------------------------
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • LOL, so 'Soon' now becomes, 'Wait for bots and Artificial Intelligence!'? Yeah.   Well, that's at least 5-10 years out, so the  Lumia 950 will be keeping company with the iPhone 3GS and Blackberry Curves in recycle trash heaps.
  • Pretty much. I can see the App Gap just becoming a Bot Gap instead anyway.
  • Actually, no, Johnny, not "wait for bots" that's why I closed with the following: ..."Microsoft is facing all aspects of the app gap problem, wisely, from a forward-looking perspective. *****Though the app Bridges and other developer-courting attempts reach toward a more immediate solution,***** Redmond's far-reaching Bot Framework and Conversation Canvases strategy is indeed future focused. "... And I also linked the: "App gap? Microsoft has a platform for that" which talks in greater detail efforts that a Microsoft is hoping will yield a more immediate solution. Thanks for the input. :-)
  • @Jason Well said as always.
    There is a human behaviour towards future. People generally laugh at something when they see something ne,innovative or futuristic.
    This fact is proved by this- When Smartphones came people laughed, criticised the idea of using smartphones like sending emails from a phone. They thought it seems silly as they had computers. But now see what the world is doing!
    If someone think logically they would understand about the idea of Apps 2.0- Bots. And for those saying it is 5-10 years they should check Microsoft's Bot Framework. Even the Messaging apps are coming with Bots. See Skype.
  • Thanks, @thunderbull for the support.:-) -------------------------------
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • Bots just don't seem any different than what some users (apps) can do now. I can order a coffee with an app or with Cortana, how an I going to know that Cortana and a bot was also in that conversation. I digress; my understanding of the outcome of bots and what they can provide. I do hope Microsoft can grab the next innovation of mobile and run with it.
  • How about ordering an coffee with just your voice in seconds instead of with your fingers in minutes?
  • flu? bad English? Handicapped? (ssstuttering) etc
    Now I believe that this vision has flaws!
  • Sure there are challenges, @CyberAngel, but remember voice is not the only mean of interacting with AI and bots, the images in the piece as well as the embedded video of Marcus Ash where the Bot is promoted by Cortana show this. Also current, and simple text interface we currently have with Cortana shows this. That said, natural language research and machine learning and tools like Skype translate that cull the data that passes through the system and "teaches" it will continue to improve it to address the current challenges that are presented with voice interaction. Just look at the s"Star Trek-like" sci-fi universal translation we have in Skype Translate. A decade ago someone may have laughed and said, "yeah right, real-time translation of different languages millions of voice types, different accents, etc., not gonna happen." It happened. Nothings certain. But I wouldn't count this out simply because there are challenges. -------------------------------
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • Thunderbull, Minutes?. Try seconds. Click app, click reorder, past order, and done. No chance of a miscommunication on said order.
    Quicker than you can dial the number. Much less is you have to look up number first. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • In Italy we use to say "trying to climb a mirror". This suits perfectly to Ms if they think bots will replace apps...
  • Good expression, I'll begin to use it
  • Maybe use it when it's appropriate, not like my fellow Italian here :D
  • I change it to unique "Trying to climb a Window!" (c) VPN
  • B-)
  • So a bot in cortana will magically make my square payment reader work in ms?   or it will magically make sirius xm work on my windows phone?  or it will magically make Sonos work on my windows phone?  Nah,  didn't think so!
  • That sort of thing would require retailers to get on board. I doubt if they will, since they would be too wary of scams involving bots that are beyond their control. Posted via my Moto X Pure Edition using the Windows Central App for Android
  • One of my first thoughts as well....old enough to remember CodeRed and ILoveYou as they happened in real time. Also would like to see an editorial reconciliation with the article Thurrot wrote earlier this week: That the primary failure of the WP Hubs feature was the loss of "branding" and lack of capture of the user by the underlying connected services. It seems to me that bots/AI presents a similar hurdle. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Thurrott's thoughts on the failure of Hubs, and probably aggregation that would extend to bots, cone a few paragraphs in: Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Black Hole Paul sucks again!
  • Bots are obtained through stores, the store has to certify them. So in that regard it's not more scam prone than the actual app store situation + stores (especially on android)
  • Well for now i switched from a Lumia 950Xl to a Android Leeco Le 2, it's awesome to have all the apps and updates again, also to have a bugless and completed OS, plus Cortana is available on Android too, with all the other Microsoft apps like Onedrive, Outlook, Office, Onenote etc, which actually work better on my new Le 2 than they did on 950XL...will see where you'll go with smartphone Microsoft, but for now i don't think is worth it having a Windows Phone, you'll just miss so many things, even little things like using snapchat or having a laugh with friends making faces on MSQRD
  • I just caaaan't lose the Continuum
    (and gain lag - and potential viruses - all that rooting - ROMs etc productivity loss)
    but it's up to person's stupid views to switch to poopdroid
  • Poopdroid?
    I've battled with Windows Mobile for years. I decided to switch last week. I now have a Ulefone Paris for £56 which has ALL my MS well as MS's Arrow launcher and Next lock screen.
    This is the best mobile I have owned in a long time. It just works. No compromises. No shortcomings. Just a fully functioning SMARTphone.
    By all means stick with your current position - but don't be so stupid as to call Android 'Poopdroid'. It makes a mockery of anything else you say Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Put a shirt on.  People who do what you're doing are narcissistic creeps.  Nobody other than you is impressed.
  • This one came sooner then i expected. I hope MS is hard at work, localizing their (bots, cortana, whatever) because MS still doesn't do well in that department.
  • This one came sooner then i expected. I hope MS is hard at work, localizing their (bots, cortana, whatever) because MS still doesn't do well in that department.
  • Agree without the localization such a model will hardly impact the masses From MS Lumia 435
  • Bots are a model, like apps. It's not MS that does localization. It's the bot developers, like for apps. What MS adds is an AI that can make interaction more human like, that has to work in all languages and it already supports many.
  • Microsoft, with all its resources, hasn't even made Cortana available to 90% of the countries around the World (heck, not even half the European countries have Cortana). Do you expect developers to do the same? You're delusional if you do. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Yeah please compare two things completely unrelated :D If a developer is interested in bots he will deliver them in the languages he feels are needed for his customers, no more no less. Makes me wonder if you even understood what we are talking about.
  • I think it's more than just language. So if you say cortana is just a human-tech interface for the bots, then the ball still falls squarely on MS to open cortana up to many more countries. Otherwise bots are just another one of MS pipe dreams.
  • Cortana is one of the possible interfaces through which you can access bots, bots success is not related to cortana success, I developed a simple bot with MS bot framework and I didn't even certificate it FOR cortana, just to make an example. Hope I could explain myself, or else google what are bots, what is MS bot framework and so on.
  • Ok I get it, bots are still virgin territory for me and unfortunately i fail to see the impact they will make in the future. I hope MS gets it right.
  • I'm not sure if you understand how it feels to live in an area with no Cortana.
    Actually ... I'm sure you don't!! :-)
  • I feel you but we are talking about bots and they are only loosely related to cortana.
  • Snap chat is still a deal breaker for many.   Bring SnapChat and W10M sales will go 300% up.
  • The CEO hates droid & Windows even more!
    6snap by Rudy Huyn used to be there for Windows Phone 8.1
  • No,  It won't. 
  • A new study was released a few days ago where only 3% of iphone users actually use Siri in public. That's a tiny amount. Most people don't feel comfortable talking to their tech. It's unnatural. I'm the same way. Most likely use it in the car sure, because it's hands free. But Even in the car Cortana just doesn't work haha. So the more useless cortana becomes because of bugs the less I even try to engage it. Then there will be the Bot directory which will be huge like the app directory in a store. You still have to add bots like you would add an app. The only difference is it won't take up as much space as an app. I think that Google's instant web apps is actually a much better solution for those one off apps. Or you know, just giving phones more space. That same context awareness could be applied to an app already on your phone as it can to a bot. We will see. I just don't see assistance as being that useful. I have never used Cortana on my desktop. Only initially played around with it when I first got windows 10. But now it makes no sense for me. It doesn't help me in any way. I have to have my mic on. I have to wait for her response while I could be much quicker with my mouse.
  • I never talk to my phone. I haven't used Cortana or Google Now using my voice. I don't even like talking on the phone, so I'm certainly not going to start talking to my phone. Posted via my Moto X Pure Edition using the Windows Central App for Android
  • I use "Okay Google" when I'm cooking or otherwise doing something with both hands. Beyond that, it's just easier to grab my phone and do whatever I was going to ask Google Now to do.
  • Agreed. Imagine everyone walking around conversing with their phones in public. I do use Google now and Cortana once in awhile when I'm too lazy to get up or type or when I'm driving. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Imagine everyone touching they phones while walking staring at their phone screens
    OR ...
  • Agreed.  And using "Hey Cortana" or its equivalent on other phones is a battery suck. 
  • Nope!
  • I don't like it. I don't even like leaving people voicemails.
  • Bots are not about talking. The way you input the question is up to you (speech, write and so on)
  • so bots are for answering questions.....sort of like what normal web browsers do now.  How is that magically going to make windows mobile even a little bit relavent.  Its not.  thats how.  Bots are NOT apps,  they are not intended to replace apps...therefore not going to gain win10m any market share. 
  • LOL you don't even understand what they are yet you want to look smart, so childish. And since they are not dependant on platform they would alleviate the app gap problem if they work.
  • You obviously cannot pick up on humor...sorry i cannot make stuff easy for you to understand....again,  They will never make apps obsolete or alleviate the app gap....
  • Actually, Steve they aren't expected to make apps obsolete particularly since there are many scenarios where a bot simply is not as suited for a function as a dedicated app and vice versa. But for a large amount of functions, yes bots have the potential of supplanted the position many apps a currently in. Yet apps and bots can coexist that's why I made the point in the text about a developer who adopts the Bot framework going further with possibly creating UWP apps as well that some users may download this increasing the devs reach and depth with a user. Thanks for the discussion.:-) And to the point of them helping Windows, as Paolo stated a Dev who uses the Bot framework on a cross platform conversation canvas such as Skype, or Kik or others, will hit all Mobile platforms iOS/Android /Windows with his Bot. As I pressed in "App gap? Microsoft has a platform for that" Microsoft's goal seems to be, with it's centralized cross-development platform w/Xamarin, to make "mobile" development a target as defined as targeting a single "Mobile" platform including a unified target of Android/iOS/Windows rather than a disparate target from a diversified platform where the targets are individual and devs aim simply for Android and iOS in most cases. This Bot framework which applys to cross-platform Conversation Canvases helps with that vision.
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • I think he is some of our old banned friends that opened another account. Guess it's useless.
  • That's really futuristic move by Microsoft. A nicely written article. Thoroughly enjoyed reading how the future could be in few years . Thanks Jason.
  • They have to port android apps to windows 10 mobile not to PC
  • I'd rather see iOS apps ported as UWP apps to all Windows 10
  • I dont think it really matters what Microsoft does because they are not relevant when it comes to the consumer products where bots will be most effective, the best that could happen is that they are one of the providers behind the scenes but they wont be successful as a consumer facing brand. I think its clear that from now on they are really only relevant in the enterprise which is reflected in their products that are having success ie Office, Azure and to a lesser extent Windows.
  • They are not relevant when it comes to consumer products. Why do people use Skype then?
  • Because Skype got their name out there early for video calls, and then Microsoft bought them
  • Skype is the best example you could think of? That certainly proves his point. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Wow this sounds amazing. Great article!
  • They have to port android apps to windows 10 mobile not to PC
  • rather iOS apps as UWP apps
  • So the example for bots is an inherently mobile experience (pre-ordering your coffee while you drive), and Microsoft has less than 1% of the mobile market. How can they become a leader in a new mobile experience? With as many phones there are running Android (and therefore Google's seach and soon Google's bot framework), Microsoft is just as likely to be left in the dust with bots as they have been with everything else mobile. And the second my phone interrupts my music when I'm driving to suggest I stop and buy something (which may be the most intrusive an ad could get), the feature is getting turned off. If it can't be turned off, the phone is getting sold.
  • Hi Tom, that's just one example that I gave(ordering Coffee on the go) in the text. Microsoft's Group Program manager for Cortana on Windows gave an example of bots interacting with Cortana to help him file his expense report from his previous days activity and another Bot for a location for dinning with a friend around lunchtime, during his presentation of the technology to developers at Build 2016 in the video I embedded in the article, to provide a visual demonstration of the technology for you guys. :-) He even demonstrated how everything carry's over to his Android phone. ;-) -------------------------------
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • By being available on android. Remember this framework works everywhere, it's not windows specific. It's designed to plug into any chat app such as FB messenger and the like.
  • I thought someone else released Cortana and other MS suite of apps on Android and IOS.
  • I'd be happy if Micorosoft, Google, and Apple could get their assistants to work when I use the voice command to launch them. None of them have worked reliably. 
  • Just when I was about to use my Lumia 950 as a door stop you have given me hope... now if only MS will listen...  
  • I think your good to go with using it as a door stop.  Just my opinion.   I think W10M is done.  and MS has gone politcailly correct with their "we are not focusing on mobile right now"  the right now means FOREVER.  and they are going to let it die. 
  • I've never thought there was much of an app gap. I know that on Android dare i say most of the stuff in the store is pure junk. It's true that the Windows srore lacks a few notable and popular apps. However NONE of them are important to me so screw it. Im good.
  • in Finland we have all the banking apps that we need - this is the Lumia-land! :-)
  • It's not so much the quantity, but the quality.
    The BBC apps on Android are AMAZING compared to Windows Phone. BBC iPlayer allows full offline downloads. BBC Radio allows radio channel buttons to be pinned as actionable 1x1 widgets. Just press the widget, and music plays. SO convenient.
    Pretty much every core app I use is better on Android Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Didn't Bank of America just release an UWP app for W10 + W10M?
    Seems like a quality app, huh?
    Check it out!
    It looks like the UWP is starting to pay off since 17.3.2016...
  • We don't have Bank of America here. None of the 3 banks I use ever had Windows Phone apps, and none ever said they would develop any when I used Windows Phone and contacted them. They all have Android and iOS apps. The one bank even has a huge cardboard sign inside the local branch advertising Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay. Posted via my Moto X Pure Edition using the Windows Central App for Android
  • One typically uses a browser on a PC. Why not use a browser on a phone/phablet as well?
  • I used to think the same way....but now,  I have square to take payments for work,  I cancelled my vehicle sirius package only running web package now,  much better,  I have sonos which is only avaible via half baked 3rd party apps on w10M.   The app gap is VERY REAL.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is dilusional.  Furthermore,  even the offical apps on windows mobile are terrible compared to their IOS counterparts.   MS's own apps are better on IOS.   Another reason I know MS is done with anything "mobile" related.  they gave up and put their efforts into IOS apps. 
  • May want to have talks with those carriers who quit unlimited data and started charging a mint for each step increase, otherwise, the complete freedom of the cloud will be limited by the carriers, much like their limiting of device availability.
  • Cortana isn't going to be able to load Simpsons Tapped Out, Clash of Clans, SnapChat or WWE Network for me if they aren't available on the platform. I love my Lumia and I don't want to leave W10M, but the app-gap is real and it is a huge hurtle that bots aren't going to fix.
  • If Cortana really has AI, it would tell you to go get a real smartphone.
  • You mean one with Continuum, right?
  • Continuum is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Actually, there is a problem where many individuals in developing countries smartphone is thier only, "computer". Continuum (and think down the road a bit, given that we're less than one year into the tech on phones) on more affordable devices, which is an MS goal I referenced in an earlier piece, more mature, and broader app support, has a definite place as an affordable all-in-one computer/phone. It also solves, enterprise cost issues. A "phone" that is also you're Mobile workstation, that can be used with peripherals like HPs mobile extender is a solution to a problem. And (think down the road) even consumers with "mobility of experiences" managed in a ubiquitous intelligent cloud, transitioning from one context to another would be seamless with a Continuum enabled "phone"...student's, businessman, regular Joe... It won't happen tomorrow, foundation being built today. But if successful, it fits well within the way personal computing is moving. -------------------------------
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • Sorry to say Jason, continuum is over rated, especially when you say developing countries would need it. those who can afford or need a laptop, have everything they need on their phone, those who need a more sophisticated computing device will have it even in a developing county and I'm saying this being from a developing country. Continuum may be useful for managers who just need a basic computing device to view/edit ppts excel etc, for everyone else its an expensive toy that will not be useful. Can we see a real financial comparision of how is it beneficial to enterprise, as compared to a desktop? or a laptop. If the phone is lost then so is data, now if say we adapt to cloud than first not all customers are open to embrace cloud readily, they want some / all data of theirs to be "on-premise", 2nd desktop/laptop + cloud is still cheaper than continuum based phones. Truth is as of now continuum is not useful. 10 yrs down the line may be, but Apple and Google will not be Dodo's during this period, and being having a significant lead already, they can use their market dominance to their advantage. Also I was waiting for you to speak about Intel's change of plans that directly affects surface phone. Any comments on that?
  • techiez
    The Truth is that you are wrong again...and again...
  • So what's wrong with techiez's comment?  Jason's comment is all about vaporware.
  • Unless you have an argument to support what you, you can keep on pasting the "again", as many times as you like, it wont help your argument. the reson 2in1s have become popular because they are standalone computing devices, while continuum needs a monitor and a dock etc. why wouldnt enterprise customer just invest in a pc stick rather than continuum based phones?
    The only ppl for whom continuum would be beneficial is ppl up in hierarchy in the enterprise, for whom companies will be willing to spend on a premium device.  
  • @techiez Hewlett Packard is betting on Continuum. But naturally your super intelligence easily beats the Board's and that of their hords of experts' combined IQ in a nanosecond... or not..    
  • "for everyone else its an expensive toy that will not be useful" I remember hearing this about Tablets, Smart Watches, IOT devices and such... just because you can't see a use for it in your particular life circle at this moment, doesn't mean it won't be useful to others. I've already seen it used for presentations (where there isn't a PC in the meeting room), which allows the user to effectively lead a demo and show interactions using just a phone. I'm not saying I could find a use for it personally, but that's not to say that it won't save someone somewhere a considerable amount of time/effort/money...
  • With?
  • Continuum is being released on IOS?  awesome!
  • Still no snap chat though. Unfortunately that's all it takes to put people off.
  • Except bots are completely useless in regards to what I need from a phone. Also Cortana is shockingly poor as an AI. When I am 300kms from home in the morning it will still tell me it'll take me 15 minutes to get to work. With what? A rocket? It's the little things like this that does that these personal assistants are nowhere near at the level that need to be at for full interaction.
  • They are assuming it will be Microsoft's bot that becomes popular. Apple and Google are a couple years ahead in the assistant field. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Apple was ahead with an assistant it purchased, but Microsoft I'd far ahead of Apple with all of the core, underlying components that will make an assistant the assistant we've envisioned: 1. Machine Learning
    2. Natural Language
    3. Thier own search engine Back Bone: Bing
    4. An intelligent Cloud
    5. A multitude of cross platform services from which data is collected and inputted back into the system to further develop the system, Such as Skype, Skype translate, Bing, and more. Siri is a good assistant, but limited in comparison to the degree of scalability Cortana has. And, actually I didn't assume MS would get there first, I was clear to include that Facebook, Google and Viv are also contenders and they may very well get there first. I'm simply presenting MS strategy and included other players to add context so readers would know MS is not alone in this vision. Thanks for reading:-) -------------------------------
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • Does MS strategy include releasing Cortana at some point? Now its been limited beta (just a couple of countries) for years already while competition seems to have resources to go global. Many were interested on Cortana when it was introduced but no availability makes it unlikely to get a second chance if/when it ever launches properly.
  • Lack of advertisement
  • We need Snapchat
  • Never quite understood what your point is with this article? most of it went way over my head. But even if people only use five apps and they are all on windows 10 mobile as long as apple and android can boast they have a lot more apps people are going to focus on that until a game changer comes along.
  • Everytime, I Love to read your Articles Jason...
  • Thanks Stavan. I appreciate the support!:-) -------------------------------
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • So eventually MS services will dominate on Apple devices and Google devices? so WP is in anycase extinct?
  • Yes WP is all but dead for 2016.  It might get a rebirth next year, but my guess is not much of a heart beat. Oh and I noticed that Here Drive + was in the article, but they are pulling support for W10 at the end of this month.
  • Rebirth like winphone 7,  7.5, 8, 8.1, 10?  Microsoft has never seen a mobile platform through to maturity ever.  They are not going to start now.   Hell,  they only offically released w10 like 3 months ago or so  and they bailed on it already.  To w10m users,  the grass really is greener on the other/ios side.  Sorry to tell you. 
  • They bailed on W10M??   Also arent 7 & 7.5 the same as well as 8 & 8.1??
  • Yes...>They bailed on w10m.  Their direct quote.....We are not focusing on mobile. omit the rest they said because thats' all you need when It comes to microsoft and reading between the lines...burnt me 3 times a win 7 phone.  it will be the future....wait,  you cannot use that phone when we switch to windows a windows 8 phone,  it will be the future.....oh wait,   you cannot use that phone when you swtich to windows a windows 10 will be the future.....execpt we are just going to drop it for now.  as well as our devices...and leave the OEMs to it....execpt  the OEM are not going to build a phone for a user base of  less than 1% of market share....when they can spend the same money and sell 100 times as many running android.   Common business sense and practice.   Face it W10M is DEAD.  If it can get to 5% market share in 5 years,  I will be SUPER IMPRESSED!
  • Except OEMs Alcatel, Nuans, Acer, HP and others actually ARE building phones, and a new build of Windows 10 Mobile which you claim is dropped was just released. Windows 10 is Windows 10. Mobile is continually being developed. I get you feel burned. I've been along for the ride too. I had my disappointments and I'm still not crazy about some of the changes that were unique to Windows Phone that are now gone...but an emotional response that denies actual fact, OEMs ARE building phones and the OS IS being developed, isn't really a valid response.
    If you feel that way, and your feelings are certainly valid though i disagree, as I shared, with your points. Present a logical rebuttal,.even if it's disagreed with it's at least presented in a way that will cause people to think about what you're saying.
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • "Alcatel, Nuans, Acer, HP" these arent the OEM's consumers care about, Samsung HTC Lenovo Xiomi are the ones to consider, unless they are on board, W10M cant gain traction in consumer space. Yes I agree W10M has some interest but it is for the OEMs (microsoft included) looking to target  enterprise and thats it. It will remain a niche category. eventually at some point of time we enthusiasts have to let it go. I think you guys know this already :)
  • I think you've completely missed the point here. Microsoft haven't bailed on the idea of Mobile, they've built an operating system that is device agnostic. They are no longer concentrating on separate models of the system for different applications - desktop, mobile, etc but don't take this to mean they've given up on mobile - they've actually improved the mobile experience (especially from a developer's stand point) by making a unified platform.  In actuality, it's not that there's no longer a mobile offering, there's just no longer a division between mobile and non-mobile, it's all just "Windows 10". The same application I write for the desktop version also runs on my phone, and also runs on my Raspberry Pi, and if I had an xbox it would run on that also - exactly the same codebase. This means that I no longer have to write three or four different versions for various device types [or have horrible compiler directives to logically switch between sections of code - kind of the same thing], which has not only drastically reduced the amount of code there is to write, it also eliminates the need to learn mobile-specific versions of libraries etc. As a developer I absolutely love the advent of Windows 10 and its unified nature, but I do appreciate the fact that most phone users are not developers and look at the phone for what it is - a device they use (as opposed to a device they develop code against). Things like Snapchat and the like have absolutely no bearing on me at all, but I do appreciate the fact that for a lot of people, the apps they physically have avaiable will be the deciding factor when chosing a phone. Such is life I guess. However, the overriding factor here is that Microsoft have made it a lot easier to write apps for their kit, Obviously the idea is that by making it easier for developers to create the windows version of their app, then they're more likely to do so, and if this ethos takes off then the app gap will close, but we all know how this market is very cut throat and I can vouch for the fact that developers are under immense pressure to get products out and into the market place as soon as possible - so to add more time (even if that's less time than before) into a process that's already stretched to the maximum isn't overly likely to happen, especially if that will only service the 1%...
  • Hi, Here drive is not in this article. Microsoft has its own Map App, which like other apps, draw data from Here. And that's not being pulled. -------------------------------
    Jason L Ward @JLTechWord
  • More like apps to web fapps
  • apps r so 2015 going forward, what purpose does an even app serve?