Alexa, Cortana get chummy
Amazon, Microsoft announce partnership between the digital rivals
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.
The arrangement makes strategic sense for both Amazon and Microsoft, tech analyst Patrick Moorhead says.