Last year, Microsoft and Amazon announced that their respective AI voice assistants — Cortana and Alexa — would be joining forces to combine the best of both ecosystems on Windows 10. This week at Build 2018, Microsoft demonstrated how the pairing with work in the real world, and it isn’t as complex as you might expect when combining two competing platforms.
In a demo that was conducted by Megan Saunders, GM for Cortana, and Tom Taylor, SVP for Alexa, a Windows 10 PC was configured to “talk” with an Amazon Echo. Saunders was able to speak the command “Open Cortana” to the Echo, after which it replied “Cortana, here. How can I help?” And with that, the Alexa is tied into Cortana where you can then access calendar event or even compose an email.
Of course, the reverse is also true, as Taylor stepped forward called out, “Hey Cortana, open Alexa”, to which she replied “Hi, this is Alexa. How can I help?” From there he was able to call up an Uber using that company’s third-party Alexa skill.
While this AI mashup is no doubt beneficial for consumers, how do Alexa and Cortana “feel” about working together? Taylor asked Alexa what she thought of Cortana, and she jokingly replied, “I like Cortana. We both have experience with light rings, although hers is more of a Halo”. Ba dum tish!
In the end, Alexa users mainly benefit from productivity aspects of Cortana (with regards to accessing meeting info/calendars/emails), while Cortana users get access to Amazon’s vastly superior smart home integration and plethora of third party Alexa skills (which now number over 40,000).
The only big question that remains is when this AI assistant crossover will go live for the public. Unfortunately, Microsoft and Amazon aren’t answering that question right now, but Microsoft is providing a website that you can go to sign up for additional information and be alerted to when the update goes live.