Alexa and Cortana aren’t making music together yet, but the two digital assistants made their first integrated appearance in a public preview announced simultaneously on August 15 on Amazon’s and Microsoft’s blogs.
Access to the other assistant’s full capabilities and feature sets will come in time and will grow, both companies asserted. During the public preview, which is available to U.S. customers only, Cortana’s and Alexa’s cross-platform capabilities are limited to basic skills.
The Microsoft and Amazon collaboration isn’t a shocker. The two companies announced the joint project in August 2017. A Microsoft blog post last August quoted CEO Satya Nadella, “The collaboration between Microsoft and Amazon reflects our belief that when people and technology work together, everybody wins.”
At the time, Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a press release, “The world is big and so multifaceted. There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience.”
The eventual goal for the fully released collaborative feature set is to enable Alexa and Cortana to work interchangeably, with the closest or most convenient integrated assistant carrying out requested tasks. During the public preview, however, Cortana and Alexa are available as skills for each other.
Cortana as an Alexa skill
To open Cortana as an Alexa skill on an Echo device, say, “Alexa, open Cortana.” When you sign on to your Microsoft account, you can make requests such as “What new emails do I have?,” “What’s on my calendar for tomorrow?,” and “Add ‘order flowers’ to my to-do-list.”
You can access Cortana’s features with current Amazon Echo devices such as Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Show, and Echo Spot.
Alexa as a Cortana skill
With compatible Windows 10 devices or Harmon Kardon Invoke speakers, you can say, “Hey Cortana, open Alexa.” Once you’ve signed into to your Amazon account, you can then issue requests like, “Turn on the lights,” “Play Jeopardy,” “What’s my order status?,” and “Add milk to my shopping list.”
Customers who try the Alexa and Cortana integration preview cannot stream music, listen to audio books or set alarms, but those features and more will come.
Microsoft and Amazon engineers encourage customers who try the integration to give feedback on their experiences and to share their ideas for improvements. According to Microsoft, feedback from the public preview will shape the Cortana and Alexa collaboration as it goes forward.