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Alexa (Amazon Echo) digital assistant, and Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, have come together in a curious collaboration.

Huffpost likened this to when the AOl and Compuserve “platforms opened themselves to share messages between each platform’s members plus to the open new Internet…..that history will record was as important as the moment AOL and Compuserve opened their platforms up to interchange and exchange.”

appleinsider reports that in “an industry first, Amazon and Microsoft have announced that people will soon be able to access Alexa from Cortana, and vice versa, including through iOS.” Nick Wingfield, The New York TImes, reports, “In an unusual partnership, Amazon and Microsoft are working together to extend the abilities of their voice-controlled digital assistants.” The Wall Street Journal writes, “Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc., fierce rivals in cloud computing, are collaborating in another emerging field: voice computing.”

A possible key motive for this consociation is found in the NY Times article here:
“The two companies have struggled in the smartphone business, which makes it hard to get people using Alexa and Cortana outside homes and offices.”

Dan Moren, Six Colors, comments, “To my mind, Amazon continues to have the best virtual assistant platform—and I would say that Microsoft has probably, well, the worst. Siri and Google Assistant are vying for the second-place position right now. But, Cortana does have access to the large market of Windows machines (and, this article never seems to mention, the Xbox), which potentially gives Amazon a vector to bring in enterprise and gaming users. Cortana, for its part, gets the benefits of being accessible on probably the most prominent voice-based platform to date.”

Tom Warren, The Verge, writes, “This cross-platform integration will also allow Alexa users to access some of the more unique aspects of Cortana. Microsoft has built its digital assistant more directly into its Office products, and now Alexa will get that functionality via Cortana — accessing work calendars and email, for example. While Microsoft is still tempting developers to create their own Cortana skills, existing Cortana users will be able to call up Alexa to get access to the ones that Cortana is missing. This might mean controlling smart home devices, or shopping on Amazon.”

Peter Bright, Ars Technica, explains, “The integration will, at least initially, be a little clunky, as you’ll have to ask one voice assistant to start up the other before you can use it. Long term, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says that he hopes this won’t be necessary and that each device’s primary assistant will be able to defer tasks to the secondary assistant as appropriate. The collaboration was Bezos’ idea. He approached Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in May last year to suggest bringing the two voice agents together, and Nadella agreed.”

Kaya Yurieff, CNN Tech, points out that “The move signifies a major shift for the competitive and crowded voice assistant market, which also includes Apple’s Siri (AAPL, Tech30) and Google Assistant (GOOG). Consumers may be more likely to adopt smart home products and corresponding voice assistants if they are able to work together. One of the biggest challenges the smart home industry currently faces is how many products are siloed. For example, some devices are only Apple HomeKit accessible, which means if you use an Amazon Echo, you’d have to switch to Siri to, say, dim the lights.”

The likelihood of Google Assistant or Siri to join the Alexa – Cortana collaboration is not to be expected since they are embedded in Android or iOS devices. However, HuffPost writes, “It is likely Apple will not combine forces with Google directly and this creates a sort of large block for Amazon and Microsoft. Although it is clear all Voice First platforms will ultimately be open at some point.”