The internet giant is collaborating with Microsoft Cortana and allowing users to stream music across multiple smart speakers
Alexa and Cortana are becoming friends.
Amazon and Microsoft have just announced a new tie-up in the smart speaker sphere. Beginning later this year, the two Seattle-based tech giants will allow devices powered by the other’s intelligent assistant to talk to each other. Or as they put it in a press release: “You will be able to turn to your Echo device and say, “Alexa, open Cortana,” or turn to your Windows 10 device and say, “Cortana, open Alexa.””
In practical terms, this means Alexa Echo owners will have access to unique Cortana features such as the ability to read email or have your daily schedule read to you — assuming that you use Microsoft 365 apps like Outlook and Office on a Cortana-enabled device. On the other hand, Cortana users can shop on Amazon and try out the 200,000-plus “skills” that third party developers have created for Alexa. These include popular features to help you locate your phone when it’s buried in a couch.
First released in 2014, Cortana is an intelligent assistant akin to Siri that works on Microsoft Windows 10 devices and XBox. Microsoft doesn’t have a native speaker as yet, though its Cortana-powered Harman Kardon Invoke speaker is slated for release this fall. A price hasn’t yet been disclosed for the Invoke.
“The world is big and so multifaceted. There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief exec, in a statement. “Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience.”
Separately, Amazon recently released a software update that allows Alexa users to stream music on multiple speakers. Using the native app, you can now “group” together disparate Alexa-enabled speakers around your home or office, and use them to play Taylor Swift simultaneously. In other words, you can stroll from your bedroom to kitchen without missing a single beat.
The update is a long-time coming: Google’s Home speaker already provides a similar syncing option. Per Mashable, Amazon is also moving to open up its system so that high-end audio makers like Bose will be able to integrate the internet behemoth’s smart speaker into their devices.
The smart speaker market is a growth industry. According to Global Market Insights, a market research firm, it was valued at $400 million last year and is slated to enjoy a compounded annual growth rate of 50% between 2017 and 2024. Amazon, an early pioneer of smart speakers, is the clear leader. Depending on whose estimates you accept, it has a market share of between 70% to 82%. Much of the rest has been captured by Google. Apple also recently said it would belatedly enter the market with its HomePod device.
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