Microsoft and Amazon launch preview for cross-device collaboration between Alexa and Cortana

Microsoft and Amazon launch preview for cross-device collaboration between Alexa and Cortana
Credit: Nicole Gray

Amazon and Microsoft hope you’ll help them teach Cortana and Alexa to play nicely together. Starting today you can sign up for a preview that’ll let you run the virtual assistants on each others’ respective devices.

Announced last fall, the collaboration is finally here in limited testing form. Those who opt in, using an Echo, Windows 10, or Harmon Kaidon Invoke device will be able to summon both virtual assistants on their devices. This collaboration includes most, but not all, of the virtual assistants’ features.

Users in the preview can access their Office 365 calendar and Microsoft email accounts on Amazon devices. And, upon summoning Alexa on a Windows 10 or Invoke device, they can shop on Amazon and use Alexa skills – including those that control other devices. But not included in the preview, currently, is streaming music or setting alarms.

This is a cool collaboration — more options are always welcome — and a big step towards making consumers’ lives a bit easier. The idea here is that you’ll come to rely on Cortana as the professional office assistant and Alexa as your shopping buddy who plays games like Jeopardy with you. And Microsoft and Amazon are betting you’d prefer to have access to both of them on all of your devices.

It’s not exactly a bold move, but it’s a welcome one. If they can work out the kinks, it’ll go a long way towards making the more expensive Harmon Kaidon Invoke and Amazon Echo Plus speakers seem like a worthwhile investment. If they can’t figure out how to make the experience seamless for consumers it’ll end up being more like a smart speaker mullet: Cortana’s business in the front clashing with Alexa’s party in the back.

I’m, for example, worried about accidentally calling Cortana by the other assistant’s name in a meeting and treating my co-workers to an update on the wrong order. Alexa blurting out what my fiancee and I, hypothetically, ordered on Amazon to celebrate our anniversary could present an unprofessional business atmosphere. But, that’s why both companies are involved in the preview: So all of you can help them work out their kinks before my colleagues hear about mine.

If you’d like to get in on the preview, take the following step(s):

  • To enable Cortana as a skill on Echo devices, say “Alexa, open Cortana” and follow the steps to sign into or set up your Microsoft account.
  • To enable Alexa as a skill on a PC or Harmon Kaidon Invoke speaker, say “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” or click the microphone button and say “open Alexa.” Follow the steps to sign into or set up your Amazon account.

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