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.