Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa are finally talking, fulfilling a groundbreaking promise made last year to bring the rival digital assistants together.
Microsoft showed off the very first integrations between the two digital assistants at its Build developer conference in Seattle Monday.
“We want to make it possible for our customers to get the most out of their personal assistants, not be bound to a single one,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at Build. “So we’ve been working with our friends across the lake at Amazon to really bring Alexa and Cortana together to benefit every developer and user.”
Megan Saunders, a Microsoft general manager, shared the stage with Amazon Alexa Senior Vice President Tom Taylor. They opened up Alexa and Cortana on the same smart speakers, using Alexa for smart home experiences, and calling up Cortana to run through the daily calendar.
The surprise partnership was announced last summer, with a goal of getting the two digital assistants on the same page by the end of the year. That deadline came and went, with the companies promising they would have something to show “soon.”
The plan focuses on letting each voice assistant leverage the unique capabilities of the other. Long-term, the goal is a deep integration in which each assistant simply knows to use the other for a specific task, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in an interview with The New York Times in August.
Bezos and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talked about collaborating at Microsoft’s CEO Summit back in 2016, and executives acknowledged after the Alexa-Cortana announcement the possibility of future partnerships. While Amazon and Microsoft find themselves competing in several areas, under Nadella, Microsoft has made a point of partnering strategically with its rivals.
Alexa has grabbed the early lead in the competitive digital assistant market that also includes the Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and many more. Microsoft has said it is playing the long game with Cortana, and is creating unique experiences that tie together the digital assistant with the tech giant’s suite of enterprise productivity offerings.