Microsoft and Amazon start publicly testing Cortana-Alexa integration

Microsoft’s Megan Saunders and Amazon’s Tom Taylor show off the first integrations of Alexa and Cortana at Microsoft Build in Seattle

Microsoft’s Megan Saunders and Amazon’s Tom Taylor show off the first integrations of Alexa and Cortana at Microsoft Build in Seattle

If you're the proud owner of an Amazon Alexa-powered device who'd prefer to summon the digital dulcet tones of Microsoft's assistant Cortana instead of Alexa herself, you're in luck. Microsoft showed off the new functionality at its Build 2018 developer conference, and now, it's finally live.

"Once you open Cortana, all voice data goes to Microsoft and not Amazon, and once you open Alexa, all voice data goes to Amazon and not Microsoft", said Amazon spokeswoman Dawn Brun in a statement a year ago. (Not that Amazon's waited on Microsoft to expand to Windows 10 laptops, television sets, and other devices.) It's easier for the virtual assistants to reach as many people as possible by partnering up than by competing. You can either tell Cortana to "open Alexa" or tell Alexa to "open Cortana". Alternately, Cortana will be able to ask Alexa to set the temperature of the room through an internet-connected thermostat and access numerous third-party skills other companies have built into Alexa.

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The companies announced last August that Cortana and Alexa would start communicating with each other. "Alexa users will have access to Cortana's knowledge and helpful productivity features such as calendar management, day at a glance and rich email integration", a Microsoft spokesperson told Thurrott.com.

Microsoft and Amazon officials have said the goal of integrating Cortana and Alexa is to be able to carry out different tasks both at home and work on whichever device is most convenient.

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The Verge reports that Microsoft and Amazon have released a wider public preview of its previously teased deeper integration between the Alexa and Cortana digital assistants - available for everyone in the USA right now. However, there's a few things that it can do that Amazon's assistant can't.

If you've been waiting to use Alexa when only Cortana is available, or vice-versa, this preview might be exactly what you're looking for. That means that some features are still missing, such as the ability to stream music or set alarms.

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Microsoft mentioned that it will ask its early users to engage with the new features and offer feedback like what they like, what they don't like, what features they use the most. Microsoft says the integration will start rolling out to customers Wednesday and will reach all US customers within days.

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