Data & AI

IBM Watson vs Microsoft Cortana Intelligence suite

IBM Watson vs Microsoft Cortana Intelligence suite

Most people know Watson as IBM’s answer to Jeopardy star Ken Jennings. But IBM’s aspirations for its artificially intelligent supercomputer are now less quiz show champion and more medical genius. The IBM Watson ecosystem empowers you to develop powered by IBM Watson cognitive capabilities in your applications. The IBM Watson ecosystem can drive innovation and build creative cognitive solutions.

For sure you have been hearing about the term Cortana for a while now and would like to know more about it. Can you explain what this term means, how is it relevant to Business Intelligence, and any other details which will help me get started with this technology. Cortana Intelligence suite augment your users’ experience, customize responses, and drive appropriate actions with intelligent agents. Enable your solutions to see, hear, speak, and interpret the world around you.

Cortana is a suite of fully managed Business Intelligence (BI), Big Data, and Advanced Analytics service offerings from Microsoft in the Azure Cloud. Recently it has been re-named / re-branded as Cortana Intelligence, so we will refer to it as Cortana Intelligence Suite through the rest of this tip.

Of course it is very hard to compare two worlds (IBM and Microsoft solutions), but let’s take a look at each competitor’s offering in greater details. How does IBM Watson vs Microsoft Cortana Intelligence suite ? 

This diagram shows my view of the relationships between two worlds, a sort of IBM Watson versus Microsoft Cortana Intelligence suite:

IBM Watson vs Microsoft Cortana Intelligence suite

Following is an highlight of the perceived strengths of Microsoft offering:

  • Azure’s strong cloud story: Microsoft has the largest enterprise cloud, with over 35 data centers globally and 24/7 availability. Microsoft is the only vendor recognized as a leader across Gartner’s Magic Quadrants for IaaS, PaaS and SaaS solutions for enterprise cloud workloads.
  • Hyperscale cloud: Hyperscale computing is necessary in order to build a robust and scalable cloud, big data, map reduce, or distributed storage system. Microsoft sites are some of the biggest Hyperscale data centers around the world due greater investments.
  • Partner’s ecosystem: Microsoft deeply values its partners and the Azure’s solutions they deliver to our mutual customers. Microsoft Partner Network is designed to make resources available to a wide variety of technology companies so they can build a business around Microsoft technologies. The program consists of over 640,000 partners.
  • Native and full integration with edge devices: Microsoft designs hardware component involved in Intelligence solution as Kinect, HoloLens, Seeing AI lens.
  • Cortana Virtual assistant: full integration among intelligence components, including Cortana, bot framework, cognitive service to implement end to end scenario.
  • Leverage on Bing search engine to improve machine learning algorithms
  • Microsoft provides SharePoint, Yammer, Outlook and other enterprise collaboration tools, underpinned by Power BI to fuel personal productivity with advanced analytics.
  • Leverage on Minecraft: The Malmo platform is a sophisticated AI experimentation platform built on top of Minecraft, and designed to support fundamental research in artificial intelligence.


Following is an highlight of the perceived strengths of IBM offering:

  • Watson’s storytelling: Watson brand awareness, from Jeopardy show appearances to IT market.
  • Watson as product: IBM sales approach is to sell Watson solutions “as a product”.
  • Watson Analytics has compelling data sets: Twitter, The Weather Company data are useful data streams for Watson analytics solutions.
  • Watson IoT: Watson IoT Platform is the hub for many IoT solutions, for example the platform is specialized for Automotive, Insurance, Electronics, etc.


Far from being comprehensive and established, this analysis however offers the perspective of someone who has spent a fair number of years working with IBM Watson and recently involved in the same camp as part of Microsoft team.

To continue the IBM Watson vs Microsoft Cortana Intelligence suite, lastly, it is also pivotal to draw a short comparison in terms of commercial offering: 



Context and competing offerings

Watson Virtual Agent / Conversation BOT Framework & Cortana Virtual Assistant & Cognitive Services Watson has pre-built chat-bots, but they are less flexible and cannot be customized like Microsoft’s Bot Framework. Moreover Bots are integrated with Cortana Virtual assistant, and they are ready to be used by a very large of social network
Explorer Watson APIs Azure Data Factory & Power BI Watson Explorer is intended to allow for quick data exploration, competing with Azure Data Factory and some Power BI functions
Watson Discovery Bing News Search Watson Discovery is based on Alchemy data news, Microsoft Bing news search the web for news articles. Results include details like authoritative image of the news article, related news and categories, provider info, article URL.
Watson Knowledge Studio Cognitive Toolkit & Power BIs Natural language analysis and unstructured data annotation component builder comparable to Power BI and Cognitive Toolkit


Finally, a comparison for IBM Watson vs Microsoft Cortana Intelligence suite is provided below:

Watson Services

Cognitive Services

Context and competing Microsoft offerings

Visual Recognition Computer Vision / Face / Emotion /Content Moderator / Video The Microsoft offer is much wider when it comes to visual recognition. Microsoft Cognitive Services includes a comprehensive set of service APIs for the visual recognition. For example:

  • Computer Vision returns information about visual content found in an image.
  • Face service allows to create a database of personas and to use the service for an real authentication based on the human faces.
  • Emotion service is able to capture the human emotion by the face expression.

Moreover it is possible to analyze a live video steam and the content moderator is used to check if the images contain adult contents.

Language Translator Translator Microsoft translator supports 60 different languages
Tone Analyzer Text Analytics Microsoft Text Analytics returns a numeric score between 0 and 1. Scores close to 1 indicate positive sentiment and scores close to 0 indicate negative sentiment. Sentiment score is generated using classification techniques. The input features of the classifier include n-grams, features generated from part-of-speech tags, and word embedding. 
Retrieve and Rank QnA Maker The QnA Maker service allows you to quickly build, train and publish a question and answer bot service based on FAQ URLs or structured lists of questions and answers. Once published you can call a QnA Maker service using simple HTTP calls and integrate it with applications, including bots built on the Bot Framework. The strong point of QnA Marker is the simplicity, you may use it for any your chat BOT
Speech APIs Speech APIs Microsoft is able to customize the acoustic model of the speech recognizer to better match the expected environment and user population of your application.
none Search APIs The Bing APIs enables everyone to submit queries to and retrieve results from the Bing Engine. For example:

Bing Autosuggest API helps users complete queries faster by adding intelligent type-ahead capabilities to an app or website

Bing Web Search API offers enhanced search details from billions of web documents.

Bing Image Search API includes thumbnails, full image URLs, publishing website info, image metadata, and more.

Bing Video Search API includes useful metadata such as the creator, encoding format, video length, and view count.

Bing News Search API includes authoritative images of the news article, related news and categories, provider information, article URLs, and dates when images were added.

none Knowledge APIs Enable interactive search experiences over structured data via natural language inputs.

The QnA Maker service allows you to quickly build, train and publish a question and answer bot service based on FAQ URLs or structured lists of questions and answers. Once published you can call a QnA Maker service using simple HTTP calls and integrate it with applications, including bots built on the Bot Framework. The strong point of QnA Marker is the simplicity, you may use it for any your chat BOT

Language APIs Language APIs Among the Lang APIs there is Web Lang API used to insert spaces into a string of words lacking spaces, like a hashtag or part of a URL.




summarize Cortana Intelligence Suite for anyone, I’d say it is basically data ingestion, big data, machine learning and intelligence services, combined with Power BI for a beautiful presentation of your data. And sprinkled on top are some of the most incredible and integrated services you can dream of.

Cortana Intelligence Suite is a combination of several services that work really great together and form a solution to your business. It enables different scenario’s for any case you can think of. Whether you have a scenario with real-time data analytics, real-time predictive analytics or you’re just in need of a data lake to fill with your data for analysis, Cortana is where you need to be.

This picture summarizes the Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite the best.
It shows you how different tools fit different purposes in the chain from data to insight to action.

IBM Watson vs Microsoft Cortana Intelligence suite

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