The companies responsible for two of the biggest digital assistants, Alexa and Cortana, have announced plans to team up so that Alexa- or Cortana-powered devices will be able to communicate with each other. Amazon and Microsoft announced this surprise collaboration this morning.
If you own a Windows 10 PC, you will soon be able to use your voice with its built-in Cortana assistant to access Alexa on Amazon’s supported devices, such as its Echo speakers. That support will also be extended later to Cortana apps on Android and iOS. In addition, the Echo speakers will soon be able to access Cortana. All of this is supposed to take place sometime before the end of 2017.
So what does this mean, exactly? Well, since Cortana is available on Windows 10, iOS, and Android, you will soon be able to say, “Hey Cortana, open Alexa,” Then you can ask Alexa to not only control its Echo products, but also order items from Amazon’s online store, or even access the over 20,000 different Alexa skills developed by third-parties.
Cortana's integration with Microsoft's Office products means you will be able to have the Echo read you an email, set up your meetings for the day, access your calendars, and more
If you own an Echo speaker, you should soon be able to say, “Alexa, open Cortana,” to access more business and enterprise-based features. Cortana’s integration with Microsoft’s Office products means you will be able to have the Echo read you an email, set up your meetings for the day, access your calendars, and more.
The New York Times reports that this collaboration began about a year ago when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos brought up the idea with Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella. Having two digital assistants, and their respective products, work with each other would seem to be a way for those companies to better compete with other digital assistants, such as Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby, and Apple’s Siri. While Microsoft and Amazon claim they would also like to see this kind of communication crossover work with those other assistants, it’s unlikely that will happen anytime in the near future.