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Alexa and Cortana have teamed up. What It Means for Home Automation

The New York Times announced today that Amazon and Microsoft will make their digital assistants work together. Here's what that means for home automation.

Alison Martin
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Amazon Echo in black on table
(Photo: MEDION Pressestelle via Flickr)

It's rare to see tech giants consider or even willingly work together, and yet, here we are.

Today The New York Times announced Amazon and Microsoft would be joining forces in the digital assistant arena. Now Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa will be able to talk to one another, opening up a whole new world of possibilities for the growing home automation industry. 

What's this mean for us? Read on to find out.

The Amazon-Microsoft partnership

By the end of the year, users with Cortana will be able to summon Alexa through their Microsoft phones, and they'll be able to summon Cortana through their Echos, Dots and Taps. CEOs Jeff Benzo of Amazon and Satya Nadella of Microsoft broached the idea of working together in May of 2016, and they've been quietly working together ever since.

One of the biggest gains for Alexa comes from Cortana's relationship to Microsoft Outlook, the company's email and calendar service. Right now, Cortana users can ask Cortana more in-depth questions relating to their Outlook account, such as dates and meetings, than they could with Google Assistant or Alexa. Why? Both are Microsoft products and were designed to be used together. Now Alexa users with Cortana will be able to ask their Echoes, Dots and Taps those same questions and get those same in-depth answers.

So how does Alexa benefit? The latest data from Microsoft shows that Cortana has more than 141 million monthly users. If those users are caught between a Google Home and Amazon Echo or Tap, having Alexa work with Cortana may be enough to convince them to choose the Echo over Google Home.

Additionally, Cortana is also available on Microsoft's XBox, which means Alexa could also be available through the gaming and streaming device in the future.

What this means for home automation

We already know that a lot of home automation products already talk to Alexa — C by GE lamps and bulbs and Nest, to name a few — and just as many will work with Google Home and Apple's Siri.

The move to join forces touches on one of the biggest hurdles of the home automation industry: getting products from different manufacturers to talk to one another. Naturally, companies want to keep their products somewhat exclusive, but combining strengths does open up these digital assistants to functions outside of the home and therefore broadens their mass appeal.

Both Amazon and Microsoft have big plans for bringing home automation outside the home. They are working with car manufacturers to have their digital assistants available in new and self-driving cars, which means drivers can ask Alexa to turn off their lights at home and Cortana to check their calendars for meetings.  

In short, we could see the home automation industry pick up even more, given the new commands available through Cortana.


Will all of this encourage more Alexa and Cortana users to buy more of the other's products? Only time will tell. What do you think? Share with us in the comments!

(Photo: MEDION Pressestelle via Flickr)

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