Microsoft and Amazon’s Cortana and Alexa integration is now available

Microsoft and Amazon announced a partnership a year ago that would allow each company’s voice assistant to access the other. That integration between Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana was demonstrated earlier this year and today it has become available to the public. After completing an initial linking process, users will be able to say “Alexa, open Cortana” to an Alexa device and say “Cortana, open Alexa” to a Cortana device.

Before using Cortana through Alexa, or vice versa, you’ll need to link the two voice assistants and grant the necessary permissions. To do so, you’ll need to enable the Cortana skill through either the web or the Alexa app. After doing so, you’ll need to log in with or create a Microsoft account, and then accept the permission requests that allow the two voice assistants to share information.

Integration between the two voice assistants is very rudimentary and a bit clunky, but this is currently a bit of a public trial that the two companies will use to improve the service. Microsoft says “the goal is to have two integrated digital assistants who can carry out tasks across different dimensions of daily life.”

When you say “Alexa, open Cortana,”Microsoft’s voice assistant says hello and begins listening for a request. After completing each request, it asks what’s next and continues to listen. This is because Cortana through an Alexa device cannot respond to a wake word, so you must continuously interact with the alternate assistant or it will exit out. The same is true when calling on Alexa through a Cortana device. Saying “Alexa, ask Cortana…” followed by a request is equivalent to saying “Alexa, open Cortana” and nothing else.

Perfect integration between the two voice assistants would be the ability to simply call each one using their own wake-word/name from the start, but it’s unknown if that will ever be possible. With Alexa so far ahead of Cortana, as far as market penetration goes, I doubt Amazon would be willing to turn every Alexa device into an always-ready Cortana device.

There isn’t much that Cortana can do that Alexa can’t, but a few things are handy. One of the most useful Cortana capabilities is its ability to check and compose an email. Cortana also integrates well with Microsoft Office services, such as OneNote and Outlook.

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9 comments
  1. Floki says:

    I apologize for the off topic but is there any news on the release date of the 3rd generation Dots? Do you think it will be a “worldwide” release or initially just released in the United States?

  2. Itzme says:

    When can we invite Siri to the table?

  3. Reflex says:

    I played with this last night and it worked remarkably well. Since Cortana has access to my email, calendar and other features much more tightly than Alexa (especially since I use Office365) it was nice to be able to query Cortana from my Echo. It seemed just as responsive as if it were native. Very impressive for a beta.

  4. Ganeyvim says:

    Tried it every which way.
    It is iffy at best.
    Cortana is definitely not ready for prime time.
    Fault does not lie with Alexa herself.

    • Reflex says:

      I’m curious what your issues were. For me it was reliable and had access to the things Cortana has access to. Was it not reliable or something? Granted I didn’t do a lot with it but what I did worked in an expected fashion.

      • ganeyvim says:

        Hi
        My beef is not so much with the “Beta” mode of the skill, as with Cortana.
        Calling Alexa from Cortana, seems to work much better, then the other way.
        One of the problems on the Alexa side, is that the Cortana voice volume is way lower the Alexa’s.
        The rest of the issues, (Voice recognition, accuracy, errors and so on) are Cortana issues, and not the skill, which definitely is allowed to develop.

        • Reflex says:

          So my experience is drastically different. I actually have not tried to invoke Alexa from Cortana, the pc is in the same room I was testing so if I’d asked for Alexa it would have likely just invoked it directly on my Echo. I did not observe a volume difference, although the device I was testing with was a Dot that has a bluetooth speaker connected which could have resulted in different output levels or some level of normalization in volume (I’ll try it with just the Dot speaker).

          I didn’t have any issues with voice recognition/accuracy/errors, honestly I feel Cortana is a bit more conversational than Alexa in general, it’s just not very useful comparatively given how little effort MS has put in to build an ecosystem.

          One question for you: When you started a Alexa session, did you need to keep asking for Alexa before each command, or did it keep the session open for multiple commands until you said cancel? Invoking from Alexa, once I asked for Cortana I could issue several commands in a row to Cortana without re-invoking. That was really useful since I would invoke Cortana to explicitly access the types of info it has access too, not to do tasks I can already do with Alexa.

  5. Itzme says:

    Would love to hear them start to argue, like the recordings at the parking lot in Airplane.

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