Amazon and Microsoft have announced they will offer integration between their voice-based assistant services, Alexa and Cortana.
Users will be able to launch Alexa from an Amazon Echo device and ask to use Microsoft’s Cortana, allowing users to access the features of each service. In the case of Cortana, these include accessing Microsoft Office 365 software such as work calendars and creating meetings, along with reading emails.
Users looking to access Alexa through Cortana will be able to have better integration with their smart-home devices. Developers have built more than 20,000 services, or “skills”, for Amazon’s platform and the majority will be accessible through Cortana. This feature will be available for users later this year.
The integration is the latest example of the growth of the internet of things (IoT). Echo already offers access to other connected home appliances such as thermostats and lightbulbs.
However, the Echo functionality goes far deeper than that due to Amazon’s partnership with Zonoff and HomeAdvisor. These IoT platforms allow users to find professionals such as technicians to undertake a job, which is useful for consumers and businesses.
More companies are starting to develop services to work through the Alexa service. Online grocer Ocado recently created a skill that lets users add items to their shopping baskets, track orders and more.
The app can also give recommendations on recipes and suggest items based on the user’s previous orders. Ocado said it has done this in response to the increasing demand for a convenient experience for customers.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) also created a skill for Amazon’s platform, where users read out their vehicle registration number and the virtual assistant responds with the vehicle tax and MOT status.
In addition to creating meetings and updating calendar information, Cortana has other features that make it suitable for both customers and enterprises, and is integrated into Windows 10.
Read more on Alexa and Cortana
- Assessing the potential for home automation with Alexa.
- Microsoft partners with Harman Kardon, HP and others to push the roll out of Cortana-powered devices.
- Cortana improves productivity but raises questions about privacy as the service accesses user location and communication history.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, said: “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 specialised skill areas.
“Together, [Alexa and Cortana’s] strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience. It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.”
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: “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.”