Today, two of the Voice personal assistant (VPA) giants got together and decided to cooperate on creating a big-time social party between their voice services. Alexa and Cortana are now BFFs (see Gartner analyst Werner Goertz’s take here).
They say good things come to those who wait, and I have been waiting on this since VPAs first appeared on the scene. Bezos and Nadella opened the door to a new round of capability by dropping the barriers between different voice domains and raising the stakes on creating what I call an “insight ecosystem” driven by voice interactions and accessing all kinds of data, tasks, and notifications.
You can see it coming – “Alexa, ask Cortana for the pictures of my last Hawaii trip!”, and they show up from your surface and end up on your echo show screen – Or, “Cortana, ask Alexa to put my mom’s flight info on my calendar”. It means we won’t have to depend on one provider knowing all the answers or handling all of my requests.
The announcement suggests that, for now, the interaction is limited to essentially opening a door from one voice domain to the other as if you were talking to your “friend” Cortana through an Alexa window but…good things….
With all this nice nice between the two tech providers I also started wondering where the “others” were on all this. “SIRI”? “Hey Google!” And, especially, “Watson, come here I need you!” (I love that reference). Where are those guys? A true insight ecosystem will have to have room for all comers and for varying levels of capability. I think Bezos and Nadella know this. Do the others?
Take IBM. For all the gnashing of teeth about Watson, iBM has done credible data science work around creating some pretty interesting knowledge bases that are darn hard to create and to access. They have to make that problem go away; and now, both Alexa and Cortana seem open to the idea. “Alexa, ask Cortana to ask Watson if he wants to join our club?”
Yeah, I know, it will happen in its own time. But think of this. Alexa has some pretty deep ties to consumer behavior and engagement growing by the minute. Cortana has some pretty deep ties to enterprise interactions that open the door to every desktop. Watson seems to me to be the wild card.
If cognitive means anything then it had better mean I can ask Watson for my corporate sales data or for a briefing analysis of my earnings, or even a diagnosis on a patient. IBM likes playing in these fields but simply doesn’t have the presence that an Echo device brings to the kitchen table or that a Surface tablet does to the enterprise desk. They don’t want to be a consumer device manufacturer anymore than I want to listen to Taylor Swift sing angry breakup songs. Well, now they don’t have to.
Hello, IBM (and Apple and Google, et al). Bezos and Nadella just kicked in the door to let cross domain voice driven insights run free. You ready to play?
I remember now it was Grover Washington Jr who sang “Good things might come to those who wait, but not to those who wait too late…”
it’s time to stop waiting. Amazon and Microsoft aren’t.