Alexa, Cor­tana get chummy

Ama­zon, Mi­crosoft an­nounce part­ner­ship be­tween the dig­i­tal ri­vals

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Ed Baig PER­SONAL TECH

Alexa and Cor­tana will be go­ing to the dance to­gether.

On Wed­nes­day, Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft an­nounced a first-of-its kind col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the one­time ri­val dig­i­tal as­sis­tants that will be­gin in earnest later this year.

Own­ers of Ama­zon’s pop­u­lar Alexa-driven Echo speak­ers will be able to say, “Alexa, open Cor­tana.” Folks with Win­dows 10 de­vices will be able to sim­i­larly ask Cor­tana to open Alexa.

The tech com­pa­nies are try­ing to lever­age each of the dig­i­tal as­sis­tants’ re­spec­tive strengths, which will let you use the con­ve­nience of voice in more ways, both at home and in the work­place.

For ex­am­ple, as an Alexa cus­tomer you might ask Cor­tana out loud to up­date your cal­en­dar in­side Mi­crosoft Of­fice or to read aloud an email. Cor­tana users can sum­mon Alexa to shop in­side Ama­zon, con­trol smart home de­vices and oth­er­wise tap into an Alexa “skills” set that num­bers more than 20,000.

In a press re­lease is­sued by Ama­zon, Mi­crosoft CEO Satya Nadella said that “en­sur­ing Cor­tana is avail­able for our cus­tomers ev­ery­where and across any de­vice is a key pri­or­ity for us. Bring­ing Cor­tana’s knowl­edge, Of­fice 365 in­te­gra­tion, com­mit­ments and re­minders to Alexa is a great step to­ward that goal.”

His coun­ter­part at Ama­zon, Jeff Be­zos, said that “the world is big and so mul­ti­fac­eted. There are go­ing to be mul­ti­ple suc­cess­ful in­tel­li­gent agents, each with ac­cess to dif­fer­ent sets of data and with dif­fer­ent spe­cial­ized

Echo own­ers will be able to say, “Alexa, open Cor­tana.” Folks with Win­dows 10 de­vices will be able to ask Cor­tana to open Alexa.

skill areas. To­gether, their strengths will com­ple­ment each other and pro­vide cus­tomers with a richer and even more help­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s great for Echo own­ers to get easy ac­cess to Cor­tana.”

The ar­range­ment makes strate­gic sense for both Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft, tech an­a­lyst Pa­trick Moor­head of Moor In­sights & Strat­egy says. Alexa gains ac­cess to more than 500 mil­lion Win­dows 10 in­stal­la­tions and ac­cess to high pro­duc­tiv­ity skills, while Cor­tana taps into home au­to­ma­tion and a di­verse con­sumer base.

Moor­head doesn’t think the agree­ment raises pri­vacy con- cerns. “It ap­pears that Cor­tana on Alexa and Alexa on Cor­tana op­er­ate as ‘apps,’ and there­fore there is no data shar­ing.”

Just how deep and smooth the in­te­gra­tion turns out to be re­mains to be seen. For now, the other ma­jor dig­i­tal as­sis­tants, Ap­ple’s Siri and the Google As­sis­tant, will re­main in­de­pen­dent of Alexa, Cor­tana and each other.

But in June, Ama­zon’s Dave Limp ex­pressed in­ter­est in hav­ing Alexa work with both Siri and Google As­sis­tant. “If Ap­ple or Google want to come call­ing, my phone num­ber is out there,” he said at the time. “I don’t know if I can en­vi­sion it, but I hope it will hap­pen on be­half of cus­tomers.”

Moor­head says the ar­range­ment “cer­tainly shakes up the dig­i­tal as­sis­tant market and will likely put the most pres­sure on Google As­sis­tant.”

And fresh com­pe­ti­tion will soon ar­rive from Ap­ple’s HomePad and from Mi­crosoft via the Har­man Kar­don In­voke speaker.

AMA­ZON ECHO BY ETHAN MILLER, GETTY IMAGES; COR­TANA BY RE­VIEWED.COM

RE­VIEWED.COM DAVID BECKER, GETTY IMAGES

The ar­range­ment makes strate­gic sense for both Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft, tech an­a­lyst Pa­trick Moor­head says.

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