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Amazon Alexa And Microsoft Cortana Integration Goes Into Preview

The two voice assistants will now be able to work together on Amazon Echo devices and on Windows 10 PCs.

The leading voice assistant on smart speakers, Amazon's Alexa, is joining forces with the most ubiquitous assistant on PCs, Microsoft's Cortana.

Microsoft and Amazon on Wednesday announced a public preview that will integrate Alexa and Cortana, both on smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and on PCs.

That means that users can now enable Alexa to work on Windows 10 PCs, while users will be able to summon Cortana (and tap into their Outlook calendar) on Echo devices.

[Related: Apple's HomePod Is Not The Smartest Of The Smart Speakers]

"The goal is to have two integrated digital assistants who can carry out tasks across different dimensions of daily life — at home or work, and on whatever device is most convenient," Microsoft said in a blog post.

The announcement follows a report by the Wall Street Journal this week that Microsoft is working to overhaul Cortana.

The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant is looking to boost the usage of Cortana in settings other than PCs, such as in vehicles, Microsoft executive David Ku told the Journal.

One such effort, the Harman Kardon Invoke smart speaker, was released last year but has failed to make any headway against the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers, according to the report.

“We're still seeing some major growing pains not only with Cortana, but with the entire smart speaker category,” said Reed Wiedower, CTO of New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner.

Wiedower said he owns an Invoke and, like most other smart speaker owners, he largely uses the device for timers, weather and music.

"Not because of the lack of a broader Cortana-based ecosystem, but simply because those are the tasks that, in the house, voice-control seems the most appropriate to perform," he told CRN in an email.

Beyond the Invoke, however, "I use Cortana every single day," Wiedower said. "Reminders go into it from my phone, it keeps track of all my flights and packages arriving at my house inside of Outlook and it warns me when I'm running late to a meeting in a location outside my office."

Those scenarios “don't involve me speaking into a device sitting in my house – but all are part of the current Cortana product," he said.

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