In the world of smart AI assistants, you usually have to pick one. Would you like to use Alexa? Or Cortana? Maybe Siri, even Google Assistant? Thanks to a new partnership between Amazon and Microsoft, you'll no longer have to choose between Alexa and Cortana.
So how's this going to work? You're just going to ask one to start the other, which essentially means Microsoft and Amazon have created skills for each other's smart assistants. On your Echo device, you just have to say "Alexa, open Cortana" while on your Windows device you just have to say "Cortana, open Alexa."
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At first, this integration will be limited to Echo devices and Windows 10 PCs in the fall when the integration launches, but will expand to iOS and Android devices in the future. That begs the question: Why? Why would these two companies vying for the smart home crown do this, especially when Microsoft is gearing up to launch smart speakers like the Harmon Kardon?
It turns out both companies realized their assistants complimented each other more than they competed with each other. About a year ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos raised the idea to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at a conference, and they've been working on it ever since, according to The New York Times.
"The personality and expertise of each one will be such that if they interoperated, the user will get more out of it," Nadella told the Times. "That resonated for me and for him, and then that's what led to the teams working."
Alexa, for instance, is really good at helping you buy things on Amazon. Cortana, on the other hand, is tightly integrated into Microsoft's Office 365 suite of software, allowing her to better keep track of your day, emails and work than Alexa. Put them together and you have a more all-in-one solution that neither could achieve by their lonesome.
So what about Google and Apple, the other two big players investing in smart assistants? While Nadella and Bezos both hope this news inspires them to join the smart assistant friendship train, they haven't made any approaches yet. Both companies do have the final piece of the puzzle: the smartphone, which has eluded the grasp of both Amazon and Microsoft.
In the future, Bezos says smart assistants will diverge into their own corners, being good at their own things, and will need to converge or be interoperable. He even hopes users won't have to say "Alexa, open Cortana" in the future, as the AI would figure out which assistant is best for your request and serve them up automatically.