At a technology event in June, Amazon exec David Limp said he hoped there was a day when the company’s virtual assistant, Alexa, worked with competing digital assistants like Cortana.
Turns out he knew that that day was coming.
Amazon and Microsoft announced on Wednesday that they’ve been working on a partnership to allow their respective voice assistants, Alexa and Cortana, to speak to one another.
Starting later this year, owners of Amazon Echos and other Alexa-powered devices will be able to say: “Alexa, open Cortana” to start querying Microsoft’s voice assistant. Owners of devices running Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system will be able to summon Alexa via Cortana in a similar manner.
Why would customers want that — especially with the relatively clunky nature of the necessary voice command? The companies say that each voice assistant has its strengths — features like Microsoft Outlook and Exchange email integration for Cortana and smart-home controls or shopping for Alexa — and that customers of both companies would benefit from an integration.
It’s not clear if the two assistants will share voice data in an effort to make each artificial assistant smarter.
The new partnership throws a wrinkle into the narrative of the emerging world of voice assistants, where Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Apple have been competing to build the operating system of the future. Google, of course, has Google Assistant built into the Google Home speaker as well as select Android phones. Apple’s Siri has been the digital assistant inside iPhones for years and will power the forthcoming HomePod.
Does that mean Siri and Google Assistant are next?
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft chief Satya Nadella told The New York Times they would welcome such cooperation. But, as The Times notes, such a future may be unlikely since Google and Apple see their AIs as key differentiators for their mobile phone operating systems.
Back at the June tech event, Amazon’s Limp echoed Bezos’ sentiment about cooperation.
“My phone number is out there,” Limp said at the time. “They can call. I hope there is a day when that happens.”