Microsoft and Amazon get Cortana and Alexa talking

Microsoft and Amazon get Cortana and Alexa talking

Starting later this year, consumers will be able to instruct their Amazon Echo and other Alexa-powered devices to open Cortana and then start querying Microsoft's voice assistant, while users with the Windows 10 operating system will be able to activate Alexa via Cortana in a similar way.

"Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us", Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, said in a statement that appeared on both Amazon's and Microsoft's website. He went on to point out that Cortana's knowledge, Office integration, smart commitments, and reminders would be assets to Alexa users.

Despite the concerns, separate research from Radiocentre shows that over 9% of United Kingdom households owned one or more Amazon Echo devices when it launched in Autumn 2016, while claimed intent to purchase suggests household penetration of voice-controlled smart devices could hit 40% by early 2018. Users will be able to turn to their Echo device and say "Alexa, open Cortana", or turn to their Windows 10 device and say "Cortana, open Alexa", according to a press release.

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If you have multiple Amazon Echo or Dot speakers in your home already, you just need to group them together in the Alexa app and name that group (eg. lounge). Nadella similarly said that he hoped the two companies would be inspired by Amazon and Microsoft's partnership. But Microsoft and Amazon will do all it can to fend off competition from the likes of Google and Apple.

Amazon has dominated the category of connected speakers since 2014, when it introduced its first Echo, which responds to voice commands and allows users to order goods or rides and control-connected appliances. Part of the reason something like this could happen is because Amazon does not compete in the same productivity space that Microsoft does, for which Cortana (and now by extension, Alexa) acts as a bridge.

That's probably because it's highly unlikely the two companies will ever agree to open their Google Assistant and Siri "skills" to Alexa and Cortana integration. In an interview with the Times, Bezos said, "I want them to have access to as many of those AIs as possible". Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Google have all built rival digital assistants that have been seen as walled gardens blocked off from each other, and this partnership signals a move to make them work better together.

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