With today’s announcement of Alexa and Cortana combining forces, Amazon and Microsoft leverage the other’s strengths while fortifying their own positions: Amazon is making a move to bring Alexa’s skills, communications and devices a step closer to enterprise adoption while Microsoft’s core assets in Cloud and Azure finally find the hardware home that Cortana so woefully lacked outside of Windows 10.
At first glance, a clear win-win scenario: Gartner had identified the lack of Active Directory or LDAP support as an inhibitor to access enterprise assets (see: “Forecast Snapshot: VPA-Enabled Wireless Speakers, 2017-2021”). Once Alexa and Cortana start having direct conversations (later this year), users of Echo devices will be able to use the communications feature of Alexa to access their Exchange Server’s Outlook calendar. And hopefully, someone will create a bot that allows me to say “Alexa, ask Cortana to dial into my 9 a.m. conference call.” – no dial-in numbers to remember, access codes to enter, or confirmation numbers to press!
Conversely, Cortana will be able to manage my connected home devices while I am at the office using my Windows 10 laptop: I will be able to remotely turn on the lights and feed the pets while outside of the connected home. The intrusion of Echo devices into the work space is inevitable and through this collaboration, Cortana will finally have hardware devices to deliver its core assets: the world of Azure. Don’t expect entirely smooth sailing as the first use cases emerge,though. Hand-offs will fail and especially threaded conversations will go awry. Over time though, Alexa and Cortana will get along fine, just like real sisters.
With today’s announcement, Satya Nadella and Jeff Bezos underscore that no personal assistant today is “better”, only “different”: each of their assistants complement each others’ capabilities and knowlegde bases, creating synergy. I expect we will see more complementary voice assistant collaborations in the future: assistants with geographical and language advantage (such as Sherpa in Spain), and specialist translation bots (such as Bitext) complementing the general purpose giants Alexa, Google Assistant. Over time, domain-specific medical, legal, or technical assistants will add depth to the language assistant capabilities. Get ready to access these natural language assistants through all sorts of devices: cars, kiosks, refrigerators, or parking meters!
Co-opetition is at play here as Satya and Jeff join forces!
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