Microsoft announced Cortana a few years ago as a personal, digital assistant that would help organize your life. Since then, Amazon's own Alexa assistant has completely leapfrogged Microsoft's own efforts, spawning a range of devices and skills dedicated to voice control.
Rather than attempt to compete head-to-head, Microsoft and Amazon are partnering to integrate their digital assistants with each other. You'll soon be able to talk to Cortana by saying, "Alexa, open Cortana" from an Alexa-powered device like the Echo, and vice versa.
"Cortana, open Alexa"
According to the New York Times report, the mentality behind the initiative is that by competing, Amazon and Microsoft are making their assistants less useful. Microsoft will continue pushing its own Cortana skills kit, but for features that Cortana is missing, and vice versa, users will be able to say "Cortana, open Alexa" and "Alexa, open Cortana" to get access to the different capabilities of each platform.
It might seem crazy, but given that the Harman Kardon Cortana-powered speaker has yet to emerge, and the fact both Cortana and Alexa aren't the default assistants available on either iOS or Android, the partnership makes sense. By working together, Microsoft and Amazon might have a shot at beating Google's assistant and Apple's Siri to the connected smart home of the future.
We'll have to wait and see to what extent this partnership will pay off. Having to say "Alexa, open Cortana" and "Cortana, open Alexa" to access the different skillsets seems clunky at best, but at least for those invested in the Windows ecosystem, picking up an Amazon Echo might make even more sense once these features come to fruition.