Hey Cortana, open Alexa: Microsoft and Amazon's first-of-its-kind collaboration

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If you own a Windows 10 PC, you will soon be able to use your voice with its built-in Cortana assistant to access Alexa on Amazon's supported devices, such as its Echo speakers.

Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said that making Cortana available across any device is "a key priority for" for the company. "There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas", said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a statement accompanying the partnership Wednesday.

When merged together their strengths would prove complementary and give the clients a richer and more helpful experience.

Users of Amazon's Alexa will be able to ask Microsoft's Cortana to do a range of activities - from booking a meeting to reading work email. But, Nadella and Bezos remain hopeful.

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So really this alliance is mostly a commentary on the slender individual utility now offered by each/any of these heavily hyped voice assistant technologies. Amazon wants you to be able to control things, yeah, but the end goal is for you to have access to Amazon with your voice no matter which electronics maker you prefer. Now you can assign various devices (of two or more) to groups using the Alexa app. The official word from Microsoft is that even Apple's Siri will be singing kumbaya with other AI assistants in the not-too-distant future. Also, since Alexa and Cortana can now talk to each other, Alexa will be able to answer some of the same questions that Cortana can answer.

At a technology event in June, Amazon exec David Limp said he hoped there was a day when the company's virtual assistant, Alexa, worked with competing digital assistants like Cortana.

Starting later this year, Windows 10 devices will work with Alexa's feature set and gain access to Amazon's retail service. They can then ask the Alexa voice assistant, which powers the Echo, to play specific songs on just those downstairs speakers instead of in the entire house. We look forward to having Alexa on Cortana-enabled devices and Cortana on Alexa-enabled devices later this year.

Microsoft has made Cortana an integral part of its Office and Outlook programs, and Amazon.com has encouraged outside vendors to offer services for its voice-activated products.

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