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Cortana and Alexa Give Overdue Tag-Team Performance

Five months after they were supposed to be working together, Cortana and Alexa shared a stage on Monday for a joint demo.

Cortana, Microsoft's intelligent assistant that operates primarily from Windows 10, and Alexa, Amazon's assistant whose main platform is Echo devices, were featured calling upon one another's services during the opening keynote of the Microsoft Build 2018 show in Seattle.

It was an integration that Microsoft and Amazon in a joint statement had said they would deliver by the end of 2017. That deadline came and went with no timeline updates from either company.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella introduced the demo on Monday during his keynote by stressing how important it is for personal digital assistants to communicate.

"We want to make it possible for our customers to be able to get the most of that personal digital assistant, not be bound to some single walled garden, and for developers to have access to the maximum number of users," Nadella said. "We've been working with our friends across the lake at Amazon to really bring Alexa and Cortana together to benefit every user and every developer out there."

For the demo, Megan Saunders, a general manager on the Microsoft Cortana team, and Tom Taylor, a senior vice president for Amazon Alexa, went to opposite ends of the stage to interact with each other's environments.

Saunders pretending to be in her kitchen with an Amazon Echo, first asked Alexa to add milk to her shopping list, then made the key request of the tube-shaped speaker appliance: "Alexa, open Cortana." After a pause, Cortana's voice asserted: "Cortana here, how can I help?" From there, Saunders got her appointments for the day, including a dinner with Amazon's Taylor to celebrate the demo, and used voice commands to send Taylor an e-mail that she'd see him tonight.

Taylor, pretending to be in his office working on a Windows 10 laptop, read the e-mail from Saunders, and first asked Cortana to show him the location of the restaurant where he was meeting Saunders. Then, he said the key phrase from the other side: "Hey, Cortana, open Alexa." Soon, the PC was saying, "Hi there, this is Alexa, how can I help?" He then asked Alexa to get him an Uber to the restaurant, and got Alexa to turn off a lamp on his desk.

For a laugh line, Taylor closed by asking Alexa, "What do you think about Cortana?" The response: "I like Cortana. We both have experience with light rings. Although hers is more of a halo."

The integration is currently in a limited beta. Microsoft created a Web site for users who want to be notified when the integration is live here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on 05/07/2018 at 2:59 PM


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