Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) announced Wednesday morning that, sometime later this year, users will be able to open Microsoft’s Cortana voice control software from Echo and other Amazon devices, while Alexa users will be able to talk to Windows 10 PCs.
The companies also have expressed a desire to follow up this industry first by enabling Google Android Assistant and Apple iOS Siri users to talk to Cortana devices. That may not happen, however, because both Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) may choose to maintain the walled garden around the mobile ecosystems.
At first a Cortana user will have say the command, “Cortana, open Alexa” in order to communicate with the Windows device. Likewise, the Alexa user needs to say, “Cortana, open Alexa.” That’s a little awkward, but first steps often are.
The impetus behind the deal is that each voice recognition program has a particular strength that should be available from a device from either Microsoft or Amazon. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told The New York Times, “The personality and expertise of each one will be such that if they interoperated, the user will get more out of it.”
That certainly should be the ultimate goal of the partnership — giving users the best answer to a question using the best technology to retrieve the answer.
That goal is still some ways in the future. A study reported last May that of the four voice-controlled programs, the best at answering questions was Google Assistant (68%) with answers that were complete and correct nearly 91% of the time. Cortana answered 56.5% of the questions with a score of 81.9% complete and correct, while Apple’s Siri answered 21.7% of questions, scoring 62.2% complete and correct. Alexa answered 20.7% of the questions with 87% of answers complete and correct.
By contrast, Google Search answered 74.3% of the questions with responses that were complete and correct 97.4% of the time.