Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana form AI voice assistant alliance

AMAZON and Microsoft are teaming up to create the first voice-controlled virtual assistant alliance in the world in a partnership that will allow their respective AI-powered speakers to talk to each other.

Despite being competitors in a hotly contested scene, users of Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana will be able to cross-connect both speakers to perform a range of activities, from reading emails, ordering groceries, calling a taxi or interacting with smart home systems.

In a statement according to Reuters, Amazon and Microsoft announced that users will be able to tell their Amazon Echos to “open Cortana”, and “open Alexa” to Cortana, in order to switch between the two speakers. This will be the very first time two technology companies will be willingly sharing information about their artificial intelligence-powered products in a usually a jealously guarded industry.

Cortana will be bringing its voice assistant skills to Alexa’s deep integration with Amazon. Source: Shutterstock

Alexa, Cortana, and other offerings from Apple and Alphabet have generally been known to keep their products within walled gardens in order to lock users into their ecosystems. For example, Alexa is seen as a gateway into Amazon’s huge e-commerce and Prime membership ecosystem, while Apple’s HomePod is reported to work best with the company’s music market.

“It is surprising to me that these competitors have collaborated, that speaks to the quality of their respective CEOs,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said to Reuters.

“They understand that they will benefit more by working together than trying to destroy one another.”

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Each speaker has their own specific strength, however, and the alliance will bring a more nuanced, never-before-seen relationship to the industry.

Google’s Home Assistant is one of many offerings by tech companies looking to break into the smart home industry. Source: Shutterstock

“Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience,” Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said in a statement on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

In fast response to the Alexa-Cortana alliance, Alphabet announced that its own AI assistant software Google Assistant would be made compatible with third-party speakers and home appliances. Google has a long history of manufacturing smart home appliances.

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“Starting later this year, with manufacturers like LG, you’ll be able to control your appliances, including washers, dryers, vacuums and more from your Assistant on your smart speaker, Android phone or iPhone,” Google said according to Reuters.

Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft are among the many technology companies looking to capitalize on the potential rewards of the smart home market, estimated to be worth US$40.9 billion by 2020. Recently, Apple revealed its own candidate for the smart speaker industry, the HomePod, but analysts agree that the company will have stiff competition from established players.

Additional reporting by Reuters