Home What's Brewing? Seattle’s Lingua Franca: Alexa and Cortana

Seattle’s Lingua Franca: Alexa and Cortana

Echo Tower, Tower of Babel, Cortana Tower

The vocal, verbal, virtual assistants of Amazon and Microsoft, better known as Alexa and Cortana, are now on speaking terms. The two companies have enunciated that their voice-activated AI assistants will soon be able to communicate with one another to access their respective features.

According to the Amazon announcement, interoperability will be available later this year. If you want to check your Outlook calendar or email, you’ll say “Hey Alexa, open Cortana.” And if you’re at your Windows 10 laptop and want to order some pizzle sticks for the pooch from Amazon, you’ll say “Hey Cortana, open Alexa,” and order as you would on an Alexa-enabled device.

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The “AI accord” makes sense. Why not design virtual assistants to work together instead of creating competing standards in a disarrayed Tower of Babel? Given the popularity of Alexa and the size of the Windows 10 user base, why fractionalize user access, especially when both systems are challengers in the smart speaker market.

The New York Times reports that Amazon has roughly 70 percent of the smart speaker pie right now (and that will likely increase as Alexa comes to Sonos speakers later this year). Microsoft has 145 million active Cortana users thanks to Windows 10.

But Apple has over 700 million iPhone users — each with Siri embedded inside. Google has billions of Android users who could potentially use “Ok Google” or the new Google Assistant. The two collaborative CEOs say they haven’t talked to Apple or Google about joining forces — though Amazon and Microsoft would be open to it.

In a statement, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: “Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us. Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said: “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. It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.” [24×7]