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Microsoft and Amazon team up to integrate Cortana and Alexa

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.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

63 Comments
  • * Checks for sky falling...... *
  • Should they combine their efforts, it would be a lot smarter to compliment each others services where they lack but allow their AI to continue functioning as is, so just Hey Cortana and Hey Alexa.   The backend work would simply make the collaboration stronger which is a benefit for both companies but for users it would remain a simple experience with more powerful AI.  
  • That's a good idea!
  • I believe the original report states that sataya said that was the ultimate plan. And he invited google too.
  • I switched my PC, tablet, laptop and cellphone to Windows OS in 2004. I haven't regretted it for a moment. They only keep getting better. I have used everything else at one time or another. I like quality and not what the xJone's are all carrying due to what they zee the kid next door has. I have Alexa, Cortana has really stepped up her game as Alexa continues to do the same. A  merge of these two will be  extraordinary to say the least.   . 
  • You made my day
  •   If you can't beat them, join them.
  • Yeah MS late to the party as usual, though at this point I wont be surprised if MS sells off Cortana and others bits of it's buisness like Xbox to Amazon down the road.
  • Except, neither Cortana or Xbox are doing poorly (the latter in particular makes MS billions).  Not being #1 does not always equal not profitable.  Someone's been watching too many opinionated YouTubers and hanging out on NeoGaff. ;-)
  • Nah, you don't need Youtube or Neogaf for that kind of misinformation, Forbes and The Verge would spread it as well.
  • More accurately, MS is early to the party, then wanders off before the party actually gets started.
  • Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. This made my morning. It's incredibly accurate.
  • yup, invent it, let it stagnante, let someone else claim to invent it and see their version gain mass adoption and applause while MS abandons it  
  • Who said they would sell Xbox to Amazon
  • But how? Is an Alexa app coming to my Windows Mobile, or my Windows PC/Laptop/Tablet/Stick? If not, I don't get it. So I buy an Amazon Firestick or something and that, what, unlocks Alexa on my Microsoft devices? Or will this only work on Amazon devices (sounds more like MS to me...)?
  • You can load Alexa onto a Raspberry Pi without paying a cent to Amazon.  I can't see it *only* working on Amazon devices.  In an arrangement like this, I am sure that they would find a way to open up Alexa for use on Windows devices.
  • Having to use a Raspberry Pi sounds pretty poor. Can Cortana be installed on that as well? Hoping for Alexa on Windows devices but considering Amazon's previous attempt at a Windows app just for their store was god awful, and then got withdrawn, and we've never seen video or audio apps, I kinda doubt that will happen. I fear this may be another 'only available on Android and iOS' situation. I half expect asking Cortana to open Alexa on my Windows Mobile or even PC will result in the Google store website opening. Heck, this almost sounds like the first stage of giving Cortana a retrenching.
  • I wasn't implying that using a Raspberry Pi is the only way that Amazon will allow Alexa on non-Amazon devices; just throwing it out as an example that they have allowed Alexa to be opened up on non-Amazon hardware.  That being said, I also believe Cortana is now also available on Raspberry Pi after the Creators Update for Windows 10 IoT Core.
  • Amazon, Apple and Google "Out now!"
    Microsoft: "Coming soon!" LOL
  • Corlexa? Alana?
  • First one sounds like a dental prosthesis adhesive and the second one sounds like a football player from UK :/
  • Alana is a well entrenched stripper name
  • Microsoft has had more than a couple of instances where they innovated in a space then fell behind as others consumerized the concepts.
  • I think all of them hysonmb.   Well besides actual windows.  It's the best desktop OS out!
  • Best by what measure exactly? Security, Consistency, Price, Reliability, Safe and easy App Store, Stability, Version Simplicity?
  • Usability
  • Yep. Voice activated and spatial tech (Kinect), facial recognition, augmented reality, phone-dock-to-desktop, advanced wearable displays (Band), wireless charging, etc etc etc. Good job, MS. Your heavy lifting is allowing others to bypass you and take credit. Congrats.
  • You say that, but how many of these things do MS have the patents for and are being licenced to all these other companies. Plus these companies likely have a lot of Windows or MS Office licences and a miriad of other MS products. From what I can see it's probably more profitable for MS to actually have these devices do better in the consumer space so that the companies are bigger and they can rinse them in the enterprise space. Pretty sure it's a win win for MS whether they are winning or losing. It's like Valve, sure they could make a 10x profit investing in HL3, but when they make 1000's times more profit by selling g everyone else's games, why bother?
  • All you need is a Windows phone to steer your home devices.....oh hang on.
  • Why would you need to say X open Y  then Y open Calendar why is it not possible just to say Cortana answer Skype call or Alexa switch on the lights seems a bit stupid to me I smell a rat :)
  • User comment from The Verge: "Partner to integrate Alexa and Cortana" quickly becomes "It appears that both companies have simply created skills on each others platforms". It’s like saying "Flatulence Inc. partners with Apple" when someone uploads a fart app into the app store.
  • That's freaking awesome but I think they should have skipped the "X open X" part and just went with single word activation.
  • frog leaped??   really?  Did a robot write this?
  • It would be smarter if they agree to make the two work together but on Microsoft device it all works under Hey Cortana and on Amazon it all works under Hey Alexa or whatever..that way it all continues smoothly but each company benefits where their AI lacks
  • The scenario could be "Hey cortana, how much does does the new "Surface Portable" cost on amazon?" and Cortana will go "Let me ask Alexa... *voice changes to alexa* it costs $499"
  • Knowing Microsoft they just killed Cortana. I don't see how this is good for MS, everyone who has an Alexa device probably has a PC with Cortana on it. But now Amazon is on every PC and Xbox and Surface. Cortana literally just became Alexa's b i tch. Does Microsoft ever really try to win anymore? Amazon is beating them in cloud, everyone is beating them in Mobile, and all the kids growing up with Chrome will one day force the world to switch to that platform as well. Microsoft feels like a democrat politician to me, better ideas, better outcomes but can't win for sh it.
  • Why is Amazon now on every PC, Xbox, and Surface? Not sure how you go from soon being able to use Cortana on Echo devices to Amazon being on all Microsoft products.
  • Ughhh, did you read the article? You are literally going to be able to say "Hey Cortana, open Alexa". Which means any Cortana enabled device will be able to do this. Please read the article in full. 
  • I do not call that integration.  As a Cortana-only user, if I can't simply access Cortana directly, I want nothing to do with it.  Microsoft is showing its weakness yet again.
  • I don't call it weakness if you are cogent enough to recognize there is strength in collaboration. Neither Amazon or Microsoft have a robust mobile platform, which is how the assistants are most often called. There is already plenty of collaboration between the two firms as much of Alexa's search work comes from Bing, which powers Cortana. This initial step of having to call the other assistant is a bit awkward but I suspect that step will go away in time. Cortana is already on Android and iOS, and I use her on my employer-mandated Galaxy 8 device daily. I want to see more of Cortana. She is already in millions of homes via Xbox, but only if you are one of the few folks still using Kinect or if you are on a headset. Why not make a voice remote? I use the Xbox media remote daily. I'd love to be able to call Cortana from it. This is a good move overall for both Amazon and Microsoft. Apple should be part of the deal, but I'd be stunned that they would allow it and openly concede that Siri isn't as capable as they pretend it is. 
  • Alexa may have a box, but it has not "leapfrogged" Cortana. Cortana way more advanced.
  • Agreed. That's probably why Amazon agreed to the deal.
  • Kind of make it sounds like MS lost the battle... Still, no real devices outside of cell phones or PCs support Cortana... So instead of MS making one... They just toss Cortana half-assed into Alexa... Lame MS...
  • So...Cortana is only available on devices people use all day, every day. More people have a computer or smartphone than have an Echo product. Sounds like Microsoft is succeeding by having their services on more platforms. It actually falls in line with their messaging. Be where the people are regardless of the hardware. Users just want things to work and to have the same services on whatever device they're on. With Windows still being the most used OS and Cortana being integrated into W10, I'd say this just extends their influence to another part of the market. If this integration launches before the Harmon Kardon speaker, then people could already be used to using Cortana, and some people, like myself, might prefer Cortana to Alexa. I'd gladly trade in the useless Echo Dot for the Harmon Kardon speaker.
  • Yeah, but here is the thing... If I'm on my computer or cell phone... I don't really need Cortana... Or a version of Alexa for that matter... I can find anything I want just as quick.  However, if I'm listening to music on a speaker and have access to a digital assistant that can get me answers without me being near my cell phone or computer that is useful... However, Cortana will be way behind in units sold by millions, not easy to come back from.  Not that it can't be done, but they will need huge features Alexa doesn't have... Oh, but wait by integrating Cortana and Alexa it doesn't matter what Cortana can do because I can now do it with Amazons Alexa speaker so why buy an MS product?  Why someone would buy an Echo dot is beyond me, but you certainly didn't say you would trade in the Echo Alexa powered speaker for a Harmon... Because by integrating the two systems the Amazon Echo powered by Alexa can do everything Cortana can by default.
  • TL;DR version: The Dot was given to me for free. Current Cortana enabled devices don't need to be right next to you to activate. Alexa counld be useful to fill Cortana's current feature gaps, but the switching between the two services must be seamless. I better be able to say "Alexa" or "Hey Cortana" and not have to tell Alexa to open Cortana.   You don't have to be near your phone or computer to use Cortana. Just say "Hey Cortana" and it'll activate. At least my devices do. Yes, if you're in a different room than your phone/computer then it might not activate or if it does you might not hear your phone's speaker. True, Alexa could fill the current gaps in Cortana's features, but honestly, I use the Echo Dot to play music from Spotify and to check the weather. At this time I have no interest in home automation, so the majority of Alexa's features to me are useless. I'm not impressed by Alexa's performance in the couple ways I use it. I have to say things in a precise order and pretty quickly to get Alexa to recognize my whole sentence. With Cortana I can pause for a second, resume talking, and it still understands it's the same sentence/thought. There are plenty of times where I say Alexa and it doesn't activate. There are times I'm making dinner and want to change the track that's playing, and it just keeps on going. Music volume can affect the voice recognition, but I have it set to 7 out of 10 and it recognizes me most of the time. I've even been right on top of it yelling and it didn't work. Alexa is great for activating when it thinks the TV said its name. Why do I have the Echo Dot? My dad got it at a work event and asked me if I wanted it. I wouldn't have spent money on it. I will say that Cortana coming to the Echo products makes me see a little more value in the Dot. If Cortana's settings sync across all the platforms, then it would be awesome to use Cortana's features via the Dot. I would trade in my Dot for the Harmon Kardon speaker in a second. The sound quality HK is known for would be worth it on its own. I have an HK sound system in my Subaru, and I love it. My parents got an HK surround sound system years ago (work event), and it's awesome. HK has pretty much won me over as a customer.
  • There's also Xbox and the coming soon Harman Kardon speaker and IoT devices.
  • This is interesting. Why? Because when it comes to Cloud technology there are (really) only two games in town - Amazon AWS (52%) and Microsoft Azure (47%). ALL the other Cloud vendors have 1% in total to play in.  This game is already over. Anyone who knows AI will agree that data is key. The more data you can use to train your AI the better the AI will be. In voice technology, Microsoft and Google have opted for deep AI solutions for voice. Alexa and Siri are bit "gimmicky".  SIri is quite bad IMHO. This means both Cortana and Alexa will improve over time as the AI has access to mre and more data.  Google also has access to data through its product suite. Apple has nothing. If Amazon and Microsoft also agree to give each other access to their Cloud data then the competition for voice is already over.  Cortexa?
  • Maybe this will eventually lead to a partnership where Cortana and Alexa completely merge.  I can see Amazon willing to cede Alexa to Cortana for the right price since they already rely on Microsoft for Bing and they know that Windows 10 will continue to outsell Echos for the foreseeable future.  At the very least it should bolster what each can offer.
  • interested to see how this plays out.
  • and this, the cylons are born
  • thus, not this. DAMN YOU AUTOCORRECT!!!
  • They became self aware of your comment.
  • If I have to tell Alexa to open Cortana, then this feature integration will fail. If I can say "Alexa do this" or "Cortana do that" without having to activate it first, then it will succeed. Don't make me switch services. Make the device recognize which service I want to use. Heck, let me select Cortana as the default service and I'd be set. Alexa is so useless, and it is terrible at recognizing me despite going through the setup to make it recognize me better. Give me a trade-in program win the Harmon Kardon speaker comes out, and I'll gladly trade in the Echo Dot.
  • If this gets me closer to playing Groove through my Echo in the future, I'm for it.
  • there was also a recent anouncement with the amazon echo devices gaining multi room audio, so this will be a plus for a lot of people who use Echos and cortana/(groove in the future hopefully). 
  • Real integration would be supporting both trigger phrases and allow users to say "Alexa, ...." and "Hey Cortana, ...." directly on any device.
    The "Alexa, open Cortana" and "Hey Cortana, open Alexa" is cluncky at best. It is not actually integrating Alexa in Cortana any more than any app could do by registering the "open Alexa" command. I don't think people want to have to remember which of the two is the "native" or "guest" assistant for each for their devices. Real integration will be when all devices can host several assistants and direct the command to the proper one according to the name requested.
    From a human point of view, if you have a shopping secretary and a business secretary, you'll talk to the one you want directly, like "Steve, what's my next appointment ?", you won't ask "Stephany, can you ask Steve about my appointments and repeat it back to me ?".
  • This is good news for Microsoft, Amazon, and the consumer.  Microsoft is unlikely to make a dent with consumers because their mind share is small (laptops, mostly, most desktops don't have microphones).  Amazon is poised to lose their lead against competitors becaue Echo devices are command based, rather than conversational based, as compared to their competition.  By combining the two, Microsoft gains access to the smart speaker market and Echo's vast variety of skills, Amazon gets to utilize Cortana's conversational based AI and business skills (and more Amazon sales through Cortana devices), and the consumer wins because existing Echo devices will become a lot smarter in the near future. One more thing to consider; if Apple doesn't join and continues to not allow different AI systems to become the default under iOS, I see an anti-trust lawsuit in their future.  It is in their best behalves for Apple and Google to join the alliance to stave off lawsuits.  
  • I agree, this is good news. It's typically good for consumers when companies cooperate. It was a pain when Microsoft blocked Google apps on my Windows Phone and when Amazon & Apple stopped selling each others products. An Alexa device is one of those things that's not like the others. Alexa is more of a framework or kernal that is very portable and can be hosted by any number of devices. Cortana, Siri, Home Assistant are Apps. The Raspberry is a good example of how easy it is for oem's to add Alexa functionality. We're starting to see many more devices like speakers, TV's, Auto's, Smart Home bridge's as well as Amazon Echo's, Tap's, Dot's, camera's and more. If you look you'll see the price of an Echo is now under $100.  The competition of Alexa supported smart home controllers is serious with prices coming down. Alexa is going to make smart homes possible and cost effective.  Cortana will fill a gap that is currently missing. A request for information we currently get from search engines isn't natural for Alexa. The closest solution for now is the Wikipedia skill. Cortana will be a more natural fit. This was a good decision for MSFT. Apple & Google would be smart to work with Amazon. Bill Pytlovany  
  • Hi Corlexa how are you today: "Well, a bit confuse...
  • Nice, this will make it a lot less awkward when I attempt to use Cortana directives on my Echo Dot hehe
  • Just combine all the skills on any device. Allow us to chose the wake word for either assistant . side note too bad Microsoft never made a speaker with an animated holographic Cortana projected above it.
  • Well, it is the middle of 2018 and still no Alexa on my Invoke, although Cortana says its "coming soon". Is that when they will integrate Pandora too?