The Dell Boys
The Dell Boys

Alexa meets Cortana: Amazon and Microsoft to integrate their digital assistants

Alexa meets Cortana: Amazon and Microsoft to integrate their digital assistants

From Amazon's side of things the benefits to its users are Echo owners getting easy access to Cortana, making the Echo more desirable.

This is a two-way street, too, as Cortana users will be able to open up Alexa and shop on Amazon or - most importantly - access any of the 20,000 Alexa skills now in existence.

Amazon and Microsoft have formed an unlikely partnership, striking a friendship between their personal assistants Alexa and Cortana. Users will have to instruct their device to open the other by saying, for instance, "Alexa, Open Cortana" - that is not real integration, and it is doubtful that users will understand why to do this.

Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us.

Then again, Bezos, who pitched the idea of an unprecedented Amazon - Microsoft partnership to a surprisingly receptive Nadella way back in May 2016, admitted in a New York Times interview he didn't also reach out to Google and Apple.

This cross-platform integration will also allow Alexa users to get access to some of the more unique aspects of Cortana. "Hopefully, they'll be inspired by it", added Nadella. Going forward, Amazon's virtual assistant, Alexa would be able to control not just one but many Echo speakers at once.

Later this year, Windows 10 PC users will be able to say, "Cortana, open Alexa" to start interacting with Amazon's digital assistant. Cortana and Alexa need to battle Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant, and unlike the competition they aren't baked into smartphones by default. The thought was, it's better to offer access to as many digital assistants as possible so that customers can take advantage of the relative strengths of each offering. For example, Windows 10 users will say, "Cortana, open Alexa", and Echo users will say, "Alexa, open Cortana".

I do wonder what this will mean for the yet to be released Cortana enabled Harman/Kardon Invoke speaker. Amazon and Microsoft announced this surprise collaboration this morning.

Appearances of new custom-made Cortana skills are still pretty much up to the developers if they do create it.

These new tools enable device makers with connected audio systems to control music playback using Alexa.

Both companies issued press releases early this morning with details about the new collaboration (Amazon Press Release; Microsoft Press Release).


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