Cortana and Alexa will soon be best friends: here’s how it will work

Laurent Giret

Microsoft and Amazon made quite a blockbuster announcement today, revealing that their respective digital assistants will soon be integrated with each other. In an era where most  tech companies try to build walled gardens, it was quite suprising to see the two tech giants and competitors agreeing to play nice, especially since Microsoft recently courted developers to port their Alexa skills to Cortana.

Overall, today’s announcement is very good news for Microsoft and Cortana users. “Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us,” explained Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today. “Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”

Using Alexa from Cortana will just require users to say “Hey Cortana, open Alexa.” While the Cortana/Alexa integration won’t be enabled until later this year, Microsoft explained how the collaboration between the two digital assistants will make everyone’s life a bit easier. Here are a couple of use cases.

  • After asking Cortana to open Alexa, consumers will be able to shop on Amazon and manage their orders just as they would on an Alexa-powered device.
  • Microsoft says that Cortana users will also be able to access “many of Alexa’s third-party skills,” which is great as Amazon’s digital assistant already works with a lot of different services: news apps, smart home apps, music, health services, etc.
  • For Alexa users, the Cortana integration will be just as powerful. By saying “Alexa, open Cortana,” consumers will be able to ask any question to the digital assistant, get information about upcoming meetings, create reminders and use Cortana’s many other productivty features.

Microsoft said today that the Alexa integration on Cortana will be available first on Windows 10 PCs, followed by iOS and Android devices later. The announcement didn’t mention Windows 10 Mobile or the Xbox One, but it makes sense to target first the most important devices in the Windows 10 ecosystem. As for Alexa-powered devices, Microsoft’s digital assistant will be available on the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show later this year.