Some companies see competition in the same field as an adversary that needs to be eliminated in the most cutthroat way, and others see it as a potential for synergistic growth. That latter approach seems to be the philosophy Microsoft and Amazon are taking when it comes to voice assistants. The two companies have just announced that their two brainchildren will be able to talk to each other by the end of the year.

Well, not exactly talk, talk, because that would be creepy if Alexa and Cortana started chit-chatting together without any human input (although at the rate we're going, that doesn't seem to be too far a possibility), but they will be able to call upon each other when asked nicely. You can say, "Alexa, open Cortana," to your Echo devices, or, "Cortana, open Alexa," to your Windows devices. I'm sure the two gals will be happy to share you and your attention. Nothing can go wrong there...

On a more serious note, I do applaud this kind of collaboration. It shows us that both companies recognize each other's strengths and the fact that people don't own one type of device and aren't committed to one ecosystem, which has so far created a huge fragmentation and confusion between what every assistant can do and how you have to phrase requests for it to understand. I hope this move will encourage Google to do the same. Maybe one day, you could ask your Google Home Assistant to talk to your Google Pixel Assistant so you can set reminders. (Oh snap!) I hear the two are as close as twins, but not on talking terms.

Press Release

Alexa Meet Cortana, Cortana Meet Alexa
Amazon and Microsoft collaborate to help Alexa and Cortana talk to each other

August 30, 2017 06:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time
SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) announced today that Alexa will be able to talk to Cortana, and Cortana will be able to talk to Alexa. You will be able to turn to your Echo device and say, “Alexa, open Cortana,” or turn to your Windows 10 device and say, “Cortana, open Alexa.”

Alexa customers will be able to access Cortana’s unique features like booking a meeting or accessing work calendars, reminding you to pick up flowers on your way home, or reading your work email – all using just your voice. Similarly, Cortana customers can ask Alexa to control their smart home devices, shop on Amazon.com, interact with many of the more than 20,000 skills built by third-party developers, and much more.

“Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”

“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. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience,” said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon. “It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.”

Alexa and Cortana will begin talking to each other later this year.