Almost a year after the two giant tech companies, Amazon and Microsoft, announced their plan for the two assistants, Alexa and Cortana, to be able to communicate with each other, they have finally announced Wednesday that it’s now possible, reports CNBC. The integration is now available as a preview to everyone in the U.S.
The idea to team up the two digital assistants was intended to give them greater power as they compete with Apple’s Siri and Alphabet’s Google Assistant. With Alexa’s 45,000 programmed skills and Cortana’s more than 250, Apple’s Siri is now lacking in capabilities in comparison.
Just three months ago, the tech companies explained how the integration would work. Most people use Cortana for Microsoft services, such as email and scheduling, but did not previously have access to her through their home Echo devices. Now, a person with Cortana can access her through the Amazon Echo while those with Windows 10 PC and Samsung Harman Kardon Invoke speakers can connect with Alexa through Cortana.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella explained the reasoning behind the integration at a Build developer conference in Seattle.
“We want to make it possible for our customers to be able to get the most out of their personal digital assistants, not to be bound to some single walled garden.”
Microsoft’s Jennifer Langston wrote more about the company’s goals in a blog post, according to Geek Wire.
“The goal is to have two integrated digital assistants who can carry out tasks across different dimensions of daily life — at home or work, and on whatever device is most convenient. Currently, Cortana and Alexa can each be enabled as a skill on the other.”
Users can set up their digital assistants in just a few steps. They will first have to ask each digital assistant to open up the other to begin the setup. Then they are guided through a series of steps and account logins before Alexa and Cortana are able to communicate with one another.
Both Amazon and Microsoft realize that in order to perfect their respective technology, they must cooperate and design the digital assistants to take advantage of what the other does best.
Amazon Alexa Senior Vice President Tom Taylor expanded on the company’s vision at the Build conference.
“We believe voice will make customers’ lives easier at home, at work and everywhere in between. We share a vision that there will be many intelligent agents working together to provide customers with a more helpful experience.”
The companies are asking consumers to provide feedback to help them improve functions and facilitate the integration. There is still no information on when the system will be available outside of the United States or in other languages.