Something strange just happened in the world of voice assistants. What should be fierce rivals, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa are actually getting friendly. Under a new agreement between the two companies, later this year, you will be able to access Alexa via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, followed by Android and iOS devices. That’s all kinds of crazy in a fantastic way.
Amazon’s Alexa had a strong lead in the voice assistant home device market, but with millions of devices being upgraded to Windows 10 (including Xbox), Cortana is coming on strong as an install base. The problem is skills. Amazon’s smart speaker, the Echo, which allows you to scream commands at it from across the room, has a huge developer following and as such has more than 15,000 skills you can add to it, Cortana is powerful, but has dramatically less in the raw number of features.
One of Alexa’s biggest strengths is its ability to connect to automation service IFTTT, which allows you to simply control all your connected devices, just by using your voice commands to the Echo.
Cortana will substantially benefit by this new partnership between the two brands, which immediately makes it more inviting and may actually get you using it day in, day out. Most of us have a computer around us when we’re at home, whether it be in the home office, or on your knees as a second screen while watching TV in the lounge.
Naturally this partnership flows both ways with Alexa also picking up Office 365 integration, opening many more doors in business and enterprise applications.
Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, said the collaboration between Microsoft and Amazon reflects our belief that when people and technology work together, everybody wins. For companies the size of Amazon and Microsoft, who compete in a lot of different industries (i.e. Servers – AWS vs Azure), its actually fantastic to see them looking for consumer benefits that positively impact the perception of both companies.
“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.”
By bringing Cortana to Alexa and Alexa to Cortana, Cortana users will be able to have Alexa shop on Amazon.com and manage their Amazon orders and access many of Alexa’s third-party skills by asking Cortana to open Alexa, just as Alexa users will have access to Cortana’s world knowledge and helpful productivity features such as calendar management, day at a glance and location-based reminders simply by asking Alexa to open Cortana.
Alexa as a guest on Cortana
With Alexa as a guest on Cortana, Cortana users will now have another way of making their lives easier with a great shopping experience. Say you are at work, and you receive a text from your partner saying, “We’re running low on diapers.” In the future, on your Windows 10 PC, iPhone or Android phone, you could simply say, “Hey Cortana, open Alexa,” and ask Alexa to order diapers using your preferred payment method for your Amazon account.
Cortana as a guest on Alexa
With Cortana as a guest on Alexa, Alexa users will have access to some of Cortana’s most useful productivity capabilities that help people stay organized and on top of what’s important to them. What if you’re making breakfast in the morning and need to know if you have enough time to drop off the dry-cleaning before work? On your Alexa device, you can say, “Alexa, open Cortana,” and ask when your first meeting is. If you won’t have enough time, simply ask Alexa to open Cortana again and set a reminder for the end of your workday to drop off the clothes.
Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Cortana Engineering, Andrew Shuman said,
I know this is going to make my life a little bit easier. We look forward to having Alexa on Cortana-enabled devices and Cortana on Alexa-enabled devices later this year.