Amazon and Microsoft have revealed plans to collaborate in voice computing in a partnership that reinforces the fact that content is critical in voice assistants. This will see the voice-enabled digital assistants belonging to the two – Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana become compatible beginning later in the year.
“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,” Microsoft’s chief executive officer, SatyaNadella, said in a statement.
Following the agreement each assistant will get capabilities that they previously lacked. This will consequently pose new threats to Google and Apple who also have similar assistants.
To use the artificial intelligence capabilities of Microsoft, owners of Amazon devices such as Echo speakers which are voice-activated will only need to say ‘Alexa, open Cortana.’ That way they will be in a position to use tools developed by Microsoft such as checking appointments on their Outlook calendar. At the moment Alexa lacks some features and tools such as calendar and email options. For owners of Microsoft devices running Windows 10 on the other hand, they will be in a position to compile shopping lists or configure or turn on entertainment in their homes by just saying ‘Hey Cortana, open Alexa.’
The two companies will not share data however. According to a spokesperson for Amazon, the two firms will only exchange information that is necessary for the processing of requests and also in line with the privacy policies of the two.
Productivity software integration
Alexa, which was launched in 2014 upon the introduction of Amazon Echo, has largely concentrated on home-automation and consumer needs. Cortana was also launched three years ago and works not just in personal computers but also in the Xbox One console. One advantage that Cortana has is that it is integrated with the productivity software of Microsoft.
Currently in the nascent digital-assistant market, a clear leader is yet to emerge. Siri, Apple’s digital assistant, is estimated to be present in about one billion devices. Later in the year the Cupertino, California-based tech giant will release its HomePod speaker and users will be able to access the email and calendar information that is on their iPads and iPhones.
Approximately 150 million devices running the latest Android OS have Google Assistant on them and this is integrated with Google Home – Google’s smart speaker.