Cortana and Alexa are coming together in surprising Microsoft/Amazon partnership

As the artificial intelligence war heats up, Amazon and Microsoft have made a decision to join forces in hopes of getting the edge over competition from Apple and Google. It all seems counterintuitive at first glance because we're looking at two voice assistants that have overlapping capabilities.

Microsoft said today that the Alexa integration on Cortana will be available first on Windows 10 PCs, followed by iOS and Android devices later. As the Amazon press release states, Cortana is a dab hand at booking a meeting or accessing work calendars, reminding you to pick up flowers on your way home, or reading your work email.

Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said that making Cortana available across any device is "a key priority for" for the company. Nobody was expecting the companies to make this move but now that they have, it's not like customers will ever complain about having more functionality.

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HomePod will take Amazon Echo and Google Home, which have been building momentum in the market for voice-controlled speakers capable of controlling smart appliances, fetching content from the internet and more. Although Nadella and Bezos haven't talked to them yet about it. 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. The concept of bringing the platform's knowledge as well as Office 365 integration and reminders to Alexa proved to be a good step in the achievement of that objective. Amazon just co-opted that with Multi-Room Music for its Alexa-enabled Echo smart speakers. Amazon wants you to be able to control things, yeah, but the end goal is for you to have access to Amazon with your voice no matter which electronics maker you prefer.

Now there is no word on when this device will be available to consumers but with more than an estimated 7 million Echo's already sold, it is likely going to be less expensive to get voice access to Cortana through Echo speakers then Invoke. Apple arguably kickstarted it all with Siri back in 2011, while Google and Samsung also compete in the space. Both Amazon and Microsoft are working toward integrating their assistants into vehicles, as well.

Microsoft's Cortana voice assistant.

  • Douglas Reid