Microsoft, Amazon Preview First Dual Assistant Integration Venture
Microsoft and Amazon have finally released a preview version from a year-long journey of allowing Cortana and Alexa to work with each other.
“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,” said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon. "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.”
Albeit a clunky process - the trigger commands are "Alexa, Open Cortana" and "Cortana, Open Alexa" - the collaboration investigates a bigger narrative in the industry that could have every assistant working flawlessly with each other. Currently, Windows 10 PCs and some devices can open Alexa, while Echo devices can now summon Cortana.
No longer will clients, or installers for that matter, need to choose between which software will control a home. Although Microsoft has been seriously lagging in the home control sector (about 230 skills in December 2017 compared to Alexa's 25,000 skills) the integration of the two platforms blurs that line.
Unfortunately, that lack of Cortana skills means it really just turns Windows 10 devices into Alexa extensions, but there is nothing wrong with that as Microsoft has promised to make Cortana more useful in the home automation space.
"In addition to our currently supported home automation partners, we are announcing new partnerships with Ecobee, Geeni, Honeywell Lyric, IFTTT, LIFX, TP-Link Kasa, and Honeywell Total Connect Comfort. Cortana currently supports lights, outlets, switches, and thermostats across all providers," a Microsoft spokesperson said at CES earlier this year.
The proposition is interesting and we are starting to see flashes of it across the industry. Obviously, Sonos has been a front-runner for assistant agnosticism, promising Google and Siri will join Alexa on their line of Play:1 speakers. That olive branch is an amazing initiative for the industry. It removes the friction of what brand a consumer can buy or what line a dealer should carry.
And it sounds like Amazon would love to offer Google and Apple similar integrations if they were willing to participate.
"There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas,” said Bezos in a press statement. “Together, their strengths will complement each other.”
Although the news is light on a full release, the updated Cortana and Alexa collaboration availability "later this year," with Android and iOS integration sometime in the future.