Amazon and Microsoft are entering into a rather unusual partnership, in which Cortana and Alexa will be able to communicate with each other. The integration, which has already started, will be complete by the end of this year. The news was first reported by The New York Times and has since been confirmed by the two companies.
Cortana and Alexa together is a good combination for users
The Cortana and Alexa partnership must not come as a total surprise. In May 2016, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos did mention the idea to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at Microsoft’s CEO summit. However, at that time, Nadella did not seem to be excited about the idea. Bezos, on the other hand, did not stop trying, as he later sent a draft of a brief news release that talked about the integration of the two digital assistants and how they could work together, reports the Times.
Nadella thinks that digital assistants such as Cortana and Alexa are like web browsers, which offer similar information.
“The personality and expertise of each one will be such that if they interoperated, the user will get more out of it,” Nadella told The Times.
With the integration, Cortana users will be able to ask Alexa to operate their smart home devices or do their shopping. Similarly, Alexa users will get access to Cortana’s unique features, such as reading their work email, accessing their work calendars, etc.
The integrated app could be a little cumbersome to use at first, however. In order to use Cortana, Alexa users will have to first say: “Alexa, open Cortana.” Similarly, if someone primarily uses Cortana, they will have to ask Cortana to open Alexa. Despite this, the new integrated service could be great for those who want to use Microsoft’s productivity services without opening their PC, notes Neowin.
Why is such a partnership required?
According to the Times, Bezos said it is important for users to “have access to as many of those AIs as possible,” as someday they will use different assistants for different things. On the other hand, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the partnership will inspire others. It might prove to be a little tricky for Apple and Google to partner, given the fact that their assistants are an inseparable part of their iOS and Android ecosystems. As a result, it makes more sense for them to keep their assistants confined to themselves, notes techradar.
When it comes to smart speakers, the Alexa-powered Echo and Echo Dot are dominating the market, according to various marketing research reports. Amazon Alexa holds nearly 70% of the market, whereas Cortana has 145 million users with Windows 10 installed.
Neither Amazon nor Microsoft has done well in the smartphone business, and therefore, users are unable to use Cortana and Alexa outside the home and office. Both have released apps for Android and iOS, but their apps are not popular enough to attract large amounts of users. Bezos, however, feels that eventually, the assistant on any device will be intelligent enough to direct the user to whichever assistant is best equipped to answer their query.
“In my view of the world, because that would be best for the customer, that’s probably what eventually happens,” Bezos said.