Two companies make surprise moves to encourage interoperability between Alexa and Cortana
Amazon and Microsoft will allow Alexa and Cortana ‘speak’ to each other in a surprise twist to the ongoing battle for voice-activated digital assistant supremacy.
Starting later this year, Windows 10 devices will work with Alexa’s feature set and gain access to Amazon’s retail service. Similarly, the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show will be able to use the productivity features, such as calendars, of Cortana.
The two companies say the move is recognition that people will use more than one digital assistant. For example, someone might use Cortana in the office, but Alexa at home. Interoperability will also attract more developers to both platforms.
Alexa, open 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,” explained Andrew Shuman, head of Cortana engineering at Microsoft.
The voice-activated digital assistant market is characterised by intense competition. Apple arguably kickstarted it all with Siri back in 2011, while Google and Samsung also compete in the space.
Such features not only add value to products such as smartphones, smart TVs and dedicared devices, but can also tie users into a particular ecosystem and are a treasure trove of personal data. With Google so dominant in search, it’s unsurprising that its rivals are keen to steal a march.
“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 specialised skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience,” added Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO. “It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.”
There had been suggestions that Microsoft and its recent appetite for hardware would see it create a rival to the Amazon Echo, but this has yet to materialise. It has however launched Cortana apps for iOS and Android, both of which will be able to work with Alexa at a later date.
“Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO. “Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”