Cortana was first demonstrated back in April 2013 at the Microsoft BUILD Developer Conference. It then went on to become a Virtual Assistant used by Windows Phone users and Windows PC users. Amazon’s Alexa was launched with the Amazon Echo in November 2014, more than one and a half years after Microsoft launched Cortana.
One might think that Cortana had a headstart and did better than Alexa in terms of market share but its the other way around. The Amazon Echo smart speaker was a sleeper hit and it paved the way for a greater market share to Alexa. Amazon also launched the Alexa app on iOS and Android.
After a couple of years, Alexa became really popular and Cortana was kept aside. Microsoft brought the Cortana app on iOS and Android but it didn’t come to fruition as those platforms already had better options- Siri and Google Assistant.
Back in August of 2017 Microsoft came into a partnership with Amazon to integrate Cortana and Alexa. This would enable the end user to use Cortana on Alexa speaker and Alexa on any device which has Cortana. Both companies told that this feature would arrive by the end of 2017 but it didn’t
As we stepped into 2018, it wasn’t clear whether either of the companies would continue this partnership or not. But now, we have information that this feature would arrive sooner or later. This rather interesting news was announced by the company in a Windows Insider Podcast yesterday.
When asked about the Cortana-Alexa integration the Microsoft employees accepted that they have a partnership with Amazon and told that they have an internal self-hosting going on. They said that this feature is an experiment to test a feature which they thought the users might need. A person using Cortana may want to try out another Virtual Assistant or maybe use a skill which another Assistant has. This thought was what drove Microsoft to come up with a partnership with Amazon.
Microsoft in the partnership with Amazon is testing these features in various scenarios. They are actively testing “talking to Alexa on PC and Cortana on Echo” feature in self-host. They want to make it a great experience but knows very well that it is not easy to bring together back-end speeches between two companies. Finally, they told that they are excited about this feature and have a “bunch” of people working on this integration.
Microsoft still hasn’t given any clue as to when the users can experience this new feature. It will definitely be interesting to see how Cortana performs after the arrival of this feature. Also, keep in mind that the Cortana-Alexa integration can improve the market share of both the Assistants as Cortana will then be available on Alexa speakers and Alexa will be available on PCs.