It's been a long time coming, but Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa are finally working together. The feature is rolling out now.
The companies announced last August that Cortana and Alexa would start communicating with each other. Microsoft set up a web page where interested developers could receive notifications about the integration at the Build conference in May, and now, finally a preview of the setup is available to all. Just say "Hey Cortana, open Alexa" to a compatible Windows 10 PC or "Alexa, open Cortana" on an Echo device to get things going.
Apparently the idea here is to have Cortana handle everything related to productivity, like a digital secretary, while Alexa manages everything on the personal side of things. That makes sense: Microsoft can integrate Cortana with the Office suite and other apps easier than Amazon can, but developers have already created thousands more "skills" for Alexa than for Cortana. It's all about maintaining that work-life balance.
A Microsoft spokesperson told ZDNet that this integration is currently limited. Cortana will tap Alexa for shopping on Amazon, for example, while Alexa users will "have access to Cortana's knowledge and helpful productivity features such as calendar management, day at a glance, and rich email integration." Many of Alexa's third-party skills will be available to Cortana users, but not all, though that's supposed to change in the future.
That isn't exactly the most seamless of integrations--it adds one more step between activating the virtual assistant and having it do what you want--but it will make Cortana and Alexa available on more devices. (Not that Amazon's waited on Microsoft to expand to Windows 10 laptops, television sets, and other devices.) It's easier for the virtual assistants to reach as many people as possible by partnering up than by competing.
Amazon said in an August 2017 press release that the two would complement, not replace eaceh other.
“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,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. “It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.”
If you've been waiting to use Alexa when only Cortana is available, or vice-versa, this preview might be exactly what you're looking for. But we suspect that many people have yet to make a single virtual assistant part of their lives; using one to invoke another seems like a bit of a stretch.