Microsoft and Amazon show off their Alexa-Cortana collaboration

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The Amazon Echo Show sits on display during the company's product reveal launch event in Seattle last September. Amazon and Microsoft are working to let their voice-activated assistants, which have different specialties, talk to one another.
The Amazon Echo Show sits on display during the company's product reveal launch event in Seattle last September. Amazon and Microsoft are working to let their voice-activated assistants, which have different specialties, talk to one another. Credit: Daniel Berman/Bloomberg

Microsoft and Amazon may be competing with each other in the cloud-computing market, but in the realm of voice-controlled personal assistants, Cortana and Alexa are forging a friendship.

On Monday, the two companies showed the fruits of a collaboration announced last August to let Amazon's Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana talk to each other. In a demonstration, Cortana executive Megan Saunders used Alexa to order milk and then had the assistant wake Cortana to check her schedule and send email.

Then Alexa Senior VP Tom Taylor demonstrated using Cortana at work to check on his restaurant reservation before asking Cortana to raise Alexa to order an Uber. Alexa even declared that she likes Cortana.

The mashup is still being tested, but was shown Monday at Microsoft's annual Build conference for developers in Seattle. Technically the integration is running a little late -- it was supposed to be available by the end of last year.

Top technology companies see voice-activated digital assistants as a way to extend their reach, and their products, into consumers' lives whether at home, work or in their cars. Research firm Tractica estimates the enterprise market alone for voice-activated digital assistant software will reach $7.7 billion in 2025 and there will be more than 1 billion users by then.

The companies' collaboration stems from a suggestion Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at a meeting last year, The New York Times reported in August when the partnership was announced.

Despite Monday's demonstration of cooperation, the relationship between the two companies might be headed toward "it's complicated" territory. In November, Amazon announced Alexa for Business, a focus that takes it more squarely into territory held by Cortana and Microsoft Office.

Both companies are trying to get their voice assistants installed in cars, and Amazon is striking deals with PC makers to pre-install the software, another encroachment on Cortana's patch in Windows.

-- Bloomberg News

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