Amazon and Microsoft are making a big splash with the announcement that their virtual assistants, Cortana and Alexa, can now talk to each other.
According to the two companies, the partnership will allow the companies' customers to take advantage of the complimentary skill sets of the two digital assistants. You can either say, "Alexa, open Cortana" when speaking to an Amazon Echo device, or say "Cortana, open Alexa", when speaking to a Windows 10 device.
Long term, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says that he hopes this won't be necessary and that each device's primary assistant will be able to defer tasks to the secondary assistant as appropriate. Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella echoed that sentiment: "Hopefully, they'll be inspired by it".
The two companies have been working together behind the scenes for the previous year, and eventually Cortana users will be able summon Alexa, and vice versa, by saying "Cortana, open Alexa" and "Alexa, open Cortana". Microsoft and Amazon are planning to fully detail their partnership later today. And you can access more than 20,000 Alexa skills through your desktop or laptop computer. Cortana is deeply integrated with the Office suite, and Alexa users will soon be able to access that information - which includes booking a meeting, viewing upcoming calendar events, reading work emails, setting reminders, and more.
The main thing to note here - aside from how clumsy it's going to be having one voice assistant summon another - is that Cortana and Alexa play in very different spheres; one being productivity and business user focused, and the other being ecommerce/entertainment and consumer focused. "If you won't have enough time, simply ask Alexa to open Cortana again and set a reminder for the end of your workday to drop off the clothes".
Even so, it still seems odd that these two will partner up.
The AI race is now becoming more competitive with Applealready expected to release its own Siri-powered speaker, the HomePod, later this December. Google, of course, has Google Assistant built into the Google Home speaker as well as select Android phones. It works with Amazon Music, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Pandora for now, and the company says support for Spotify and SiriusXM is "coming soon".