After missing a 2017 deadline, we last heard of the much-anticipated Cortana/Alexa integration back at Microsoft’s Build developer conference in May. Both Microsoft and Amazon didn’t share an ETA at the time, but the Wall Street Journal is reporting today that the integration could go live “as early as this week,” citing a person familiar with the matter.
Once both companies enable it, Cortana users will be able to access Alexa by using the simple “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” voice command. Moreover, Alexa users will also be able to access Cortana with a similar command. The integration should be really useful for Cortana users, especially because Alexa has much better developer support than Cortana. On the other hand, Alexa users will be able to summon Cortana to access personal information such as Outlook calendars or Office 365 data.
It was just four years ago that Cortana made its debut on Windows Phone 8.1, but so far the digital assistant hasn’t been more successful than Microsoft’s failed mobile platform. Despite making Cortana available on Windows 10 a year later, the limited market availability coupled with the lack of compelling features and dedicated hardware lead Amazon’s Alexa to quickly become the market leader. Werner Goertz, a Gartner analyst cited by the Wall Street Journal said that Harman Kardon’s Cortana-powered speaker “went absolutely nowhere,” which isn’t surprising at all given the lack of marketing and US exclusivity.
It’s not clear if Microsoft teaming up with Amazon could be a win-win partnership, but Alexa is already available as a dedicated app on select Windows 10 PCs, and Amazon’s digital assistant could also be coming to Microsoft’s Xbox One console. For years, the online has been moving much faster than Microsoft, and it’s hard to see Cortana ever catching up to its competitors. Javier Soltero, Corporate Vice President of Cortana at Microsoft seems to think the same, saying in a recent interview that Microsoft now sees Cortana more as an “assistance” aide than an “assistant.”