Microsoft and Amazon announce public preview of Cortana/Alexa integration in the US

Laurent Giret

Following a long delay, Microsoft and Amazon announced today that the Cortana/Alexa integration is launching in public preview in the US today. Those who take part in the public preview will be able to share feedback to improve the experience, both companies said today.

“Currently, Cortana and Alexa can each be enabled as a skill on the other,” Microsoft explained, highlighting some basic use cases for Cortana users. “An Office 365 customer could, for instance, ask Cortana to summon Alexa through a PC at work and use Alexa to order groceries or adjust the thermostat before heading home for the day. And someone making breakfast in the kitchen could enlist Cortana through an Echo device to preview a daily calendar, add an item to a to-do list or check for new emails before heading to the office.”

In a separate blog post, Amazon emphasized the fact that both digital assistants have become complementary, with Cortana’s access to work email and calendars filling an important gap in Alexa’s already large feature set. “There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas,” said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon. “Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience.

This means while Alexa now offers Cortana users a full range of skills, Cortana also now for the first time allows Alexa to access data held in Office and Office 365 products like Outlook and Calendar.

As of today, US customers can access Alexa on Windows 10 devices and Harman Kardon Invoke speakers by using the “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” voice command, which will open a pop up window where you can sign it to your Amazon account (similarly, you can use “Alexa, open Cortana” on Amazon’s Echo devices to connect your Microsoft account to Alexa). Cortana won’t be able to use all of Alexa’s features for now, as music, audiobooks, and flash briefings are currently not supported. Still, this is an important first step in making digital assistants being able to work with each other, and it will be interesting to see if Apple and Google will be open to make their own assistants interoperable in the near future.