While there are a lot of markets in the technology sector where the big companies battle, few are as crowded or as competitive as the battle over digital assistants. Cortana, Siri, Alexa and the aptly named Google Assistant all have their places, with secondary services like Samsung's Bixby looking for a space to play. Cortana rules the computer, Alexa rules the smart speaker, Siri rules mobile and Google Assistant is gaining ground in Android.
Each of the assistants has its place, its focus and its strengths. For example, Cortana's direct integration into products like Microsoft Office and Skype give her abilities that none of the others have. Alexa's direct integration with Amazon's shopping service give her the ability to easily order, or reorder, products directly with your voice.
Wouldn't it be great if, as a regular user of Cortana, you could take advantage of Alexa's purchasing power? Or, as an Alexa user, you could get access to Skype? That was exactly the pitch that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pitched to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in May 2016. At Microsoft's CEO Summit, Bezos suggested that the two companies connect their assistants to improve the lives of customers for both products. Nadella said,
The personality and expertise of each one will be such that if they interoperated, the user will get more out of it. That resonated for me and for him, and then that's what led to the teams working.
Over the past year, the two companies have worked to put together a communications channel for the two assistants. The two services hope to introduce the ability to ask one another to complete tasks by the end of 2017. The process will not be ideal at first, requiring a command similar to, "Hey Cortana, open Alexa," followed by the command to Alexa, and vice versa. In time, they hope that they will create a way for the assistants to decide which is better suited for a task and route automatically.
As of now, Bezos has not contacted either Apple or Google to see if they are interested in joining the team, but he says he would welcome their participation, saying,
I want them to have access to as many of those A.I.s as possible.