Virtual assistants are everywhere these days, and every company seems to have one of their own - each with a different set of skills and features. But they remain closed off, so if something is exclusive to one VA you can't use it with another. But not for long! Because Amazon and Microsoft have announced a partnership that will see Alexa and Cortana working together.
The two will start being able to communicate with one another, letting people who only have the one assistant benefit from the skills available from the other. It won't as simple as asking Alexa to open Office Suite, for example, since you'll have to ask her to "Open Cortana" first. Similarly if you want to use Cortana to order stuff from Amazon, you'll need to ask her to "Open Alexa".
Both assistants will start talking to each other later this year, though Alexa on Cortana will initially only be available on Windows 10. It will, however, arrive on Android and iOS shortly afterwards. Since there's no mention of it, I presume Cortana on Alexa won't have staggered device-specific releases.
According to The New York Times a partnership between the two companies began a year ago, with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos suggesting the initial collaboration. Both he and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella came to be concerned that closing off virtual assistants would end up holding them back. They're now of the opinion that assistant has its own unique strengths, and by collaborating assistants can improve one another; presumably improving the user experience in the process.
Bezos claims not to have not contacted Microsoft and Apple about bringing their respective assistants into the fold, though both he and Nadella say they would welcome a partnership. Unfortunately Bezos says he doesn't know whether they would be interested or not.
It's a nice idea, especially since Alexa and Cortana offer distinctly different things. Hopefully the integration will be nice and seamless, and will eventually let users use the cross-platform feature-set without having to use an additional command. That's what Bezos hopes will inevitably happen anyway, so it's not too out of the question. [The New York Times via Engadget]