Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa digital assistants can now talk to each other. The collaboration between the two assistants was announced last year and was originally due to become available by the end of 2017.
Microsoft showed how the integration would work at its Build conference earlier this year, and what’s rolling out today seems little changed from that demo. From a Cortana-native device (a Windows 10 PC, an Xbox, the Harman Kardon speaker), “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” will switch you to speaking to Alexa. From there, you have access to Alexa’s full range of shopping (not that anyone seems to really care about that), music, weather, and so on.
From an Alexa-native device, the opposite incantation—”Alexa, open Cortana”—will open Microsoft’s digital assistant for you to check your calendar, manage your to-do list, or listen to some emails.
One would hope that this integration will become smoother over time: it would be much simpler if an Echo let you speak directly to Cortana and a Windows PC directly to Alexa without having to switch—after all, each command is prepended with the assistant’s name. One feels the mere “Hey Cortana” or “Alexa” should be enough to speak to the right agent. And ultimately, it would be nice to not have to distinguish at all: if I say “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?” one feels that Cortana should be able to answer anyway.
What this will mean, if anything, for PCs shipping with native Alexa support is unclear. If nothing else, the need to have a dedicated Alexa application seems diminished, aside from the convenience of not having to ask Cortana to talk to Alexa each time one wants to use Amazon’s assistant.