Huge News – You can now use Cortana on Amazon Echo

A simulated image of the character Cortana from Halo

Cortana and Alexa on the same device, and Alexa anywhere Cortana goes

Amazon and Microsoft are partnering up to fully integrate their Alexa and Cortana digital assistants. Alexa users can access, albeit awkwardly, Cortana on a range of devices, , and vice versa. The New York Times, reports that Alexa users will need to say “Alexa, open Cortana” much like you would a skill. Similarly, with Cortana you’ll have to say “Cortana, open Alexa.” This is just the first iteration of this integration, there is likely to be more and better integrations in the future.

Cortana has a few unique features that Alexa doesn’t, and now, users will have access to both. Cortana is integrated with Office allowing Alexa users access to work calendars and email, for example. On the flip side, Microsoft still has some ground to gain enticing developers to create their own Cortana skills. Existing Cortana users will be able to use Alexa skills via the integration, which could mean control of smart home devices, and possibly even shopping on Amazon.

The move definitely took the industry by surprise. Microsoft is already working wth Harman Kardon to release a Cortana-enabled peaker. Additonally, Microsoft is gearing up for a major push of the digital assistant into cars, thermostats, and an ever growing list of devices. It makes sense that they would seek to partner up at a time when the market is new and wide open and consumers have a plethora of options. Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Google have all built rival digital assistants, it will be interesting to see if the other powerhouses follow suit.

An image of a Harmon Kardon device at a tradeshow

The New York Times reports that Microsoft and Amazon actually made the agreement in May last year. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos came up with the idea and shared it with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at Microsoft’s CEO summit. Amazon’s willingness to partner with Microsoft makes sense as well. Alexa queries already use Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and, together, they face tough competition from Google’s Home voice assistant. Though, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Pixel in person…? Google is not exactly a home run hitter with physical devices.

Still, Bezos welcomes Google, and Apple, similar integrations if they would support it. “There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas,” said Bezos in a press statement. “Together, their strengths will complement each other.” Nadella is also open for collaboration with the competition saying “Hopefully, they’ll be inspired by it” in an NYT interview.

The updated Cortana and Alexa assistants will be available some time “later this year.” At that time, Windows 10 users will have access to Alexa via Cortana right from their desktop PCs, and shortly after, Android and iOS “in the future.”