Why The Cortana-Alexa Partnership is Important

Published by Abhisek Mallick on

Microsoft and Amazon jointly announced that Cortana and Alexa will be partnering with each other. This has the potential to change how you use your AI assistants in future. Read on to know why!

Source: Business Insider, Microsoft

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Who are Cortana and Alexa?

Before we start writing songs about their friendship, let’s have a small introduction. Cortana is a Microsoft developed intelligent personal assistant available with Windows 10. It can set reminders, send emails and texts, open any app, find files or information and all this using voice commands. Know more about Cortana from Microsoft.

Alexa (named after the ancient library of Alexandria) is Amazon’s voice control system. It lets you speak your wishes and see them fulfilled—at least simple ones, like dimming your lights or playing music tracks. Alexa can respond to voice commands from almost anywhere within earshot. It’s what turned Echo into not just one of this year’s biggest tech products.

Terms of Friendship

Amazon Echo was primarily introduced as a smart speaker. But with time, Alexa, which powered the Echo devices got more and more smarter and now it can be used to control a vast array of smart home devices ranging from thermostats, light-bulbs, locks. Even salt-shakers can be controlled by Alexa. “Alexa established first mover advantage and has built barriers to entry by now, with over 12,000 products having Alexa skills,” says Gartner Research Director Werner Goertz.

Cortana, on the other hand, is the ideal assistant to a tech-savvy professional. It’s plugged in to the Office 365 productivity suite, so it has a view into your calendar and Word and Excel documents. In the not-so-distant future, Microsoft has said, Cortana and LinkedIn will even integrate to tell you about the people in your next meeting.

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For now, you can use either of them to call on the other. Just say “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” or “Alexa, open Cortana” and you are done.

The sad thing is you cannot just use one of them to perform the task of the other. Microsoft and Amazon are not sharing their respective databases with each other. For example, if you are using Cortana on Echo and you want to play music from your prime account, you need to switch back to Alexa.

However, Jeff Bezos has confirmed that the ultimate goal is to enable both the AIs to route the right question to the right AI automatically. This is where things get really exciting.

The Grand Scheme of AI Inter-operability

In my blog about bluetooth mesh, I mentioned the need of a global standard for smart devices to communicate with each other to over-come vendor dependencies. Well, another way of overcoming this is inter-operability. The AIs that controls these devices, if they can really communicate with each other and delegate commands to the respective AI, what more is needed? The market is exploding with virtual assistants right now and that means they will war with each other for the control of your home. Imagine coming to your home and a chaotic symphony of artificial greetings receiving you together. What Microsoft and Amazon has achieved, despite their short-comings, can be an answer to that. It is definitely in its nascent stage but it definitely has a huge potential.

Both Microsoft and Amazon have missed the smart-phone boom, but this is definitely something that they can brag about in near future.

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Here’s to the Future!





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