In an unusual partnership, Amazon and Microsoft are working together to extend the abilities of their voice-controlled digital assistant products.
Alexa will be able to talk to Cortana, and vice-versa. You will be able to turn to your Echo device and say, “Alexa, open Cortana,” or turn to your Windows 10 device and say, “Cortana, open Alexa.”
“Alexa customers will be able to access Cortana’s unique features like booking a meeting or accessing work calendars, reminding you to pick up flowers on your way home, or reading your work email – all using just your voice,” said Amazon in a statement.
“Similarly, Cortana customers can ask Alexa to control their smart home devices, shop on Amazon.com, interact with many of the more than 20,000 skills built by third-party developers, and much more.”
The companies’ chief executives were concerned that keeping the assistants from working together could hold them back, reported The New York Times.
“Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive. “Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, added: “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. It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.”
Digital assistant integration ‘welcome’
In the Times article, Bezos and Nadella were quoted as saying that they would welcome integration with both Apple and Google’s own digital assistant products.
The comments echo those of Android creator Andy Rubin whose new mobile phone company is based on the idea that devices from competing companies should “play well with others”.
Alexa and Cortana will begin talking to each other later this year.