Amazon and Microsoft link up voice assistants


While Apple has yet to develop an installed user base for its HomePod device, which hits the market in December, Amazon Echo has built a significant base for Alexa.

The Lenovo Home Assistant Pack can take and process command exactly like an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot would.

With their powers combined, it gives both assistants footholds into new markets - a vital hedge as Apple and Google go on the offensive with their own Siri and Google Assistant heading into the holiday shopping season. "It's great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana", said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon.

Amazon and Microsoft aren't alone in pursuing an open voice ecosystem.

For fans of Alexa, it means we could be seeing more manufacturers partner with Amazon to offer the assistant on their devices in the coming 12 months. It comes as a formidable boost for Cortana's reach, too.

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Major companies, including Google and Apple, have been competing to use the voice technology.

Technologists expect future generations of voice-activated software to increasingly displace mouse, keyboard and touch input.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, in a press release from Amazon, that "ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us". Alexa won't be always listening, and you'll need to open up the Alexa app to talk to her. Bezos told the Times' Nick Wingfield that he sees a future in which people will call on a range of A.I.s, depending on what they're trying to accomplish. While Cortana is helpful and integrated with the Office Suite, Alexa will be helpful for everyday tasks and information such booking meetings, events checking mails and other tasks. However, whether Siri will prove to be a match for Alexa and Google in the physical smart speaker is yet to show. However, that the two rivals would get into a partnership so soon was quite unexpected, more so because it is quite unlikely for tech giants to collaborate on new and important technologies, as they prefer to stand out from the competition. In addition to supporting native Amazon Echo speakers, the multi-room feature is created to work with third party Alexa-enabled speakers (starting some time next year) and Amazon's developer API is enabling the feature to work with multi-room systems from Bose, Samsung, Sound United and Sonos. There is going to be a hoard of front-running competitors, "each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas.".

Their viewpoint is that each assistant has unique strengths that could benefit the other assistants.

It is truly the end user who gains here, the Amazon chief said on Wednesday.