Amazon Alexa, although learning new skills rapidly is a bit useless as it can’t check your email or your calendar. Microsoft would love you to use their Cortana virtual assistant but it’s limited to Windows 10 devices and a couple of standalone virtual assistant speakers and they don’t have a great market penetration. Now Amazon and Microsoft have come together to offer the best of both their virtual assistants in a two way integration.
On your Echo, you can now say “Alexa, open Cortana,” and you’ll be connected directly to Cortana. Follow the instructions, sign into your Microsoft account, and you’re ready to go. Once connected to Cortana you can ask things like “What new emails do I have?”, “What’s on my calendar for tomorrow?” and “Add ‘order flowers’ to my to-do list.”.
Similarly, on Windows 10 device or Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker can enjoy many of the Alexa features they already use through their Amazon Echo such as the ability to control smart home devices, check the status of orders, and access tens of thousands of skills built by third-party developers. To get started, say, “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” or click the microphone button and say, “open Alexa.” Follow the steps on the screen and sign into your Amazon account.
This is just the start for Alexa and Cortana, which means some features like music, audio books, and flash briefing will not be available immediately but the two companies will work to add new capabilities and features over time.
To begin, Alexa will be available to US customers on Windows 10 devices and Harman Kardon Invoke speakers, and Cortana will be available on Amazon Echo devices like Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Show, and Echo Spot. Amazon will be working with Microsoft to bring the experience to more customers and devices over time.
This is an interesting collaboration and, although the plan to work together was revealed a year ago, is the first time that two virtual assistant providers have partnered together and is an acknowledgement of the fact that we now live in a multi-assistant world. Some of us use Microsoft tools such as Outlook to manage our lives whilst others use GMail or other online services and we will want to access data from our preferred provider on whichever virtual assistant we choose.
With Microsoft and Amazon this is the start of collaboration and enabling the best of both solutions to be accessible on the other’s devices. Amazon don’t want to produce office tools and email solutions – why would they when Microsoft is so far ahead in this field? Equally, Microsoft aren’t going to be setting up a marketplace as big as Amazon any time soon just so that you can get shopping alerts on Cortana. Partnering and making data and alerts available through both devices depending upon which the consumer chooses to use at any moment in time makes a lot more sense.
“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 skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience.”
– Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon