Each smart voice assistant has its strength. One may know better about online shopping while another may be better suited for entertainment activities. To offer a better user experience, Amazon and Microsoft have decided to team up and put their voice assistants into one device.
The two tech giants have announced a collaboration, which will allow users to access Cortana on Alexa-enabled devices and vice versa. End-users will see the combined effort later this year.
By then, Cortana users can say “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” and ask the Amazon smart assistant to place orders on Amazon.com; and Alexa users may say “Alexa, open Cortana” and ask about tomorrow’s meeting time at work as Microsoft has a better knowledge about the user’s Outlook account.
It is natural for a company to integrate its AI assistant with the company’s other services. This will streamline the user experience, like making purchase on Amazon.com via Alexa or on Google Express via Google Assistant. Cortana, on the other hand, can handle Microsoft Office related service very well.
Amazon and Microsoft’s collaboration makes good sense. Alexa and Cortana can also be accessed from more device categories. So far Alexa has mostly been used at home from a smart speaker, while Cortana has been mostly accessed from a PC. The collaboration can bring each AI assistant into a new user context.
According to a report from the New York Times, the partnership was first brought up by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, as a suggestion to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, at Microsoft’s CEO Summit in May 2016.
In an interview with the media outlet recently, Bezos explained his thoughts, “I want them (users) to have access to as many of those A.I.s as possible.”
Bezos imagines a future where people would turn to different intelligent assistants for different advices, just like people may ask a friend for fashion suggestions and another one on restaurant recommendations.
“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,” said Bezos in a statement.
Switching between assistants is expected to be less user intuitive at the collaboration’s early stage. For instance, an Echo user will have to ask Alexa to open Cortana, in order to access Outlook schedules, and then switch back to Alexa, in order to play music from Amazon Music.
However, Bezos is looking to develop a primary assistant which is smart enough to automatically relay a person’s request to whichever assistant that knows the better answer.
Amazon Echo currently has about 70% of the smart speaker market share, according to eMarketer’s data. Microsoft said there are 145 million active monthly users of Cortana on the Windows 10 system. Neither of them has a smartphone product to access their AI assistants all day long.
Amazon never brought up similar collaboration proposals to Google or Apple but said it’s open to the possibility.