Amazon has its work cut out collaborating with other giants of tech.
Anyone using Amazon’s Fire TV won’t be able to access YouTube from Jan 1, and Google has blocked access to the site for anyone using Amazon’s new Echo Show device.
The reason: Google is miffed that Amazon won’t carry its products, including Chromecast and Google Home. (Search for Google Home on Amazon.com, and up pops the Echo instead.)
Things aren’t quite so tense with Microsoft, but they could be getting there.
Earlier this year, the two companies announced a partnership where their respective digital assistants, Cortana and Alexa, would be able to talk to one another.
Now Amazon has announced that Alexa will be made available for office workers, with scant mention of Cortana or Microsoft in the company’s official announcement.
Employers will be able to configure their own skills for Alexa, such as dialling into a conference call or reserving a meeting room, or hook up with other enterprise services like Concur and Splunk.
Amazon is boldly moving into an area where Microsoft should arguably, have already have planted its own flag with Cortana, a service which has 145 million monthly active users according to Microsoft.
Currently Cortana’s enterprise work is focused around supporting users of Office.
It will, for instance, parse through email replies and notice if you’ve told someone that you’ll look into something “later today,” then ask separately if you want a reminder for the task.
Down the line, Microsoft says Cortana could use its integration with LinkedIn to brief you on the people in your upcoming meeting.
But in the real-world office space, Alexa looks set for an early move and probably, early domination.
The question now: will Alexa also cross over into Cortana’s area of expertise by controlling workplace software?
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say… probably.
Amazon has had a massive head start in courting third-party developers to create skills for Alexa. Already just on the smart home front, the digital assistant has more than 20,000 skills.
It’s unclear how many skills Cortana has available today but in May 2017 there were just 46 by comparison. The assistant’s real strength is with Microsoft’s core Office products.
Admittedly, many of the skills for both assistants are marketing gimmicks. Think about Patron’s Alexa skill, which lets you ask Alexa, to ask Patron, for ideas on making a cocktail.
It’s a mouthful. Yet asking Alexa to ask another party to do something is the basis of Amazon and Microsoft’s partnership – users will have to ask Alexa to activate Cortana and vice versa.