Standalone Windows in smart TVs, cars and even apartments will be commonplace in the next few years. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Almost every phone, computer, radio and consumer electronics device has its own operating system, in many cases based on Microsoft’s Windows. Now, some of Microsoft’s biggest tech fans are moving away from Microsoft, hinting that the software giant is also facing customer defections.

Case in point: Samsung Electronics, which got rid of its virtual assistant Bixby this year.

The two companies launched and integrated Microsoft technologies into their smartphones and other devices for the past decade, in part to compete with Google. But Samsung is coming to grips with the fact that most people now prefer using Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa instead of Bixby or Microsoft’s own Cortana.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest smartphone maker, China’s Huawei, built its own cloud-based operating system and cloud service. In China, which pioneered the use of “vanilla” Android in smartphones, Google’s services are blocked by authorities. Microsoft then bet its future on Windows 10, but has seen the results of its strategy in global market share for phones erode to less than 5 percent from more than 20 percent in 2010.

Baked into the change was the growing demand from Google and Amazon to power Google Assistant and Alexa, respectively, in Samsung’s web browsers, phones and TVs. Samsung responded with its own news feed and camera app. While Samsung’s roughly $200 billion in annual sales is a third the size of Microsoft’s, it sets the agenda for all Korean electronics and other industries.

“Samsung is the leading electronics company in the world, and it is not difficult to imagine that its decisions in technology can have a cascading effect down the supply chain and extend to other companies around the world,” said Oh Jung-woo, an analyst at HDC Asset Management in Seoul. “The problem for Microsoft is the emphasis its customers have put on alternatives. As a result, people are shifting their technology preferences, including to cross-platform technologies, and Microsoft may be too late to respond.”

Now, amid the growth of digital assistants, Samsung’s Vice Chairman and heir apparent Lee Jae-yong has said the company doesn’t see Bixby as an important technology.

And even some technology companies considered friendly to Microsoft like cloud provider Salesforce, which also uses its bots, say that it’s unclear what Microsoft’s strategy is.

“Microsoft and Apple have gotten much better at producing technology that works together, but that’s something that consumers don’t seem to ask for,” said Yoel Rekate, head of marketing at Heptio, a developer that caters to Google’s search queries.

Other developers including Slack are working closely with Amazon and Google Assistant to create bots and software for customers.

Microsoft has already taken steps to make Windows easier to use on devices like iPhones and iPads. Apple has also kicked off a fight with Microsoft over antitrust regulators in Europe. And U.S. regulators continue to investigate Microsoft.

By falling behind competitors like Apple and Google, Microsoft may soon become a non-factor on many devices, said Seth Fey, chief executive officer of software maker IconTT, which creates entertainment tools for the living room.

“Microsoft is quickly becoming Google and Apple’s operating system, making sure it is on every device at virtually every price point. I see no reason why you would even need to use Windows to use media-playing devices,” Fey said. “I really believe the day is approaching when Apple Watch or Amazon voice will be the one operating system you need on your smart home devices.”

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has admitted that the company’s approach of having many partners in its software ecosystem “was not successful in some cases.”

But Microsoft says it plans to remain in the business.

“We’ve taken significant steps over the past year to improve Windows Continuum by increasing the speed of updates to third-party applications and to deliver experiences such as Smart Remote, which gives you real-time settings updates and remote control over your favorite music and TV,” the company said in a statement in response to Reuters.

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