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Alexa-Cortana Public Preview Arrives

The wait for a functional and supported integration between the Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana digital voice assistants is over.

It took a little longer than the companies originally anticipated. An end of 2017 planned release came and went without comment, but Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana did appear together on stage for a successful demo at the Microsoft Build conference in May.

Officially, the integration that was announced on Wednesday is a "public preview," although what that term means anymore in this age of cloud services telemetry and constant feature upgrades is up for debate. Essentially, the integration is here.

Practically, the public preview has some limitations that will be expanded upon over time, in addition to the usual adding of new services and skills. It's only available for U.S. customers to start, and won't support music streaming, audio books, flash briefings or setting alarms. The public preview version will also query users about their experience with the integration.

What U.S. customers will be able to do during the public preview is call up Cortana from Echo devices or call up Alexa from Windows 10 PCs and Harman Kardon Invoke speakers. Each digital voice assistant is enabled as a skill on the other's platform.

To start off on an Echo device, users need to say, "Alexa, open Cortana." That command will bring up instructions and a requirement to sign into the Microsoft account that includes Cortana. Conversely, from a Windows 10 PC, a user will say, "Hey, Cortana, open Alexa," and follow the prompts on screen to sign into Alexa.

According to Amazon's announcement blog post, from Cortana within Alexa, users can say things like:

  • "What new e-mails do I have?"
  • "What's on my calendar for tomorrow?"
  • "Add 'order flowers' to my to-do list."

While going from Alexa within Cortana, a user can say:

  • "Turn on the lights."
  • "Play Jeopardy."
  • "What's my order status?"
  • "Add milk to my shopping list."

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 15, 2018


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