Tech rivalries are interesting. When two big companies compete for consumer loyalty, they often create stellar products to win us over. Sometimes, however, a tug-o-war isn't the best solution. So Microsoft and Amazon, two of the biggest names in tech, are holding hands.
In a rare and unusual move, both Amazon and Microsoft have announced a partnership that seeks to put the former's Alexa voice assistant on the Windows 10 platform, and the latter's Cortana technology on Amazon's range of smart speakers.
It's quite unusual for the two to be partnering up this early in the smart speaker race, as Google and Apple continue to duke it out on the field. How this impacts the competition remains a bit unclear, but fusing two excellent platforms together surely makes for a deadly voice assistant combo.
Making Cortana accessible to customers in any device is of prime importance to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
"Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us. Bringing Cortana's knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal," he said.
As The New York Times reports, both companies have been working together behind the scenes in the past year to make this collaboration a reality. Windows 10 users can begin using Alexa and Echo users can begin using Cortana by the end of the year.
Companies who have major stakes in the voice assistant race have all poured millions into making their individual technologies better, more capable, and smarter than ever before. However, they all have their specialties. Alexa, for instance, is mostly used via Echo smart speakers. Siri on iPhone. Google Assistant on Android. Cortana on Microsoft devices. Amazon stands to gain a lot here — this move opens up its assistant to millions of Windows 10 devices everywhere.
Microsoft Cortana On Amazon Echo
Cortana coming to Echo devices brings over a lot of options, such as having access to Cortana's many productivity features. Customers can say "Alexa, open Cortana" and ask about their schedule for the day. Users can also ask Cortana to update their calendar or read an email out loud.
Amazon Alexa On Windows 10
On the other hand, Windows 10 users will be able to summon Alexa by saying "Hey, Cortana, open Alexa" and do a number of things, such as order things off the internet. Microsoft was tight-lipped about the specific things users will be able to do with Alexa on Windows 10 but we can expect both companies to share more information in the near future.
How Apple and Google plan to take this news remain uncertain. A partnership between Google Assistant and Siri is unlikely, though.
The Cortana and Alexa collaboration was the result of Nadella and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos worrying that keeping assistants from working together might hold them back. Both executives see these assistants as having unique strengths that could benefit other assistants.
Bezos believes users will, at some point, turn to many digital assistants, as that of a friend asking different types of friends for advice on different matters. Questions about cooking? Consult your friend. Want to talk politics? Talk to your other friend.
"I want them to have access to as many of those A.I.s as possible," said Bezos in another interview last week.
Nadella, on the other hand, thinks digital assistants are similar to web browsers. They have different quirks, functionalities, and features but they are all simply used to browse the internet.
"The personality and expertise of each one will be such that if they interoperated, the user will get more out of it," he said.