If you’re the proud owner of an Amazon Alexa-powered device who’d prefer to summon the digital dulcet tones of Microsoft’s assistant Cortana instead of Alexa herself, you’re in luck. Today, an integration between the rival assistants that’s been in the works for about a year gets under way via the release of a U.S.-only public preview.
This is an incremental rollout, so you cann’t use the rival assistants yet to enjoy things like music and audio books. The launch is also coming, starting today, first to Windows 10 devices and Harman Kardon Invoke speakers, which can now summon Alexa. Likewise, Cortana will be available on Amazon Echo devices like Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Show, and Echo Spot.
In a blog post today, Amazon says it’s working with Microsoft to bring the Alexa experience to more customers and devices over time.
“Now,” the post explains, “you can now turn to Amazon Echo devices to access many of Cortana’s unique features: Check your calendar, book a meeting, read your email, and more. Get started with Cortana on Echo devices by saying, ‘Alexa, open Cortana,’ and you’ll be connected directly to Cortana. Follow the instructions, sign into your Microsoft account, and you’re ready to go.”
Suggested commands include “What new emails do I have?” and “What’s on my calendar for tomorrow?”
Likewise, customers with a compatible Windows 10 device or Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker can use Alexa to control their smart home devices, check the status of packages they’ve ordered from the e-commerce giant and access any of the tens of thousands of Alexa “skills” built by third party developers.
The integration was given a short demo in May in Seattle at Microsoft’s Build conference. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at the time the company wants “to make it possible for our customers to get the most out of their personal digital assistants — not be bound to some walled garden.”
It’s also easy to see this as an enemy-of-my-enemy sort of arrangement, with the rival tech giants working together to keep Google’s Assistant in check. The companies also haven’t said yet when the integration will be made available outside the U.S.
“This is just the start for Alexa and Cortana,” the Amazon blog post continues, “which means features like music, audio books, and flash briefing will not be available immediately. But the experience will continue to improve as we work with Microsoft to add new capabilities and features over time. And because Alexa is always getting smarter, the experience will get better the more you use it.”