Cortana, open Alexa: Microsoft demos voice assistant integration at Build

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Cortana-Alexa integration would allow Amazon Alexa users to access Cortana and Cortana users to access Alexa.

Microsoft still isn't giving a timeline as to when its virtual assistant, Cortana, will support integration with Amazon Alexa - something the companies had announced previous year.

The two seem a good match: Cortana, with its Bing-driven search technology and Alexa, with its Amazon shopping prowess and a broad base of hardware and software, could be ideal for the voice-commander crowd. Best part, it works both ways.

Today at the company's Build 2018 developer conference though, it demonstrated the two voice assistants working with each other. Details of the partnership were spelled out a bit more, but it's still in its early days as neither company was ready to announce a concrete release time. Similarly, by asking Cortana to open Alexa, Amazon's assistant becomes available on more devices, like a PC. There are a lot of things that Cortana can do and Alexa can't.

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Alexa, aren't you a little short for a storm trooper? The answer should be (or will be soon): "I like Cortana".

The demo was set in a scenario with an Echo speaker in the home and Cortana on a PC at work because Amazon is the most popular speaker in US households, and Cortana, which is available on hundreds of millions of PCs running Windows 10, is the most popular assistant in the workplace. Then she called up Cortana by saying, "Alexa, open Cortana" and had Microsoft's digital assistant run through her calendar and send an email. Alexa booked an Uber ride for him.

Saunders said the integrations are only available in limited beta testing for now, but there is a new website where people can sign up for updates. So a user, while at work, might say "Cortana, open Alexa" to do something like turn on the porch light at home or buy something online.

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