Alexa and Cortana: Together?

From Recode: Amazon and Microsoft are working to integrate Alexa and Cortana. Apparently they believe that each assistant has something that the other lacks.

The companies say that each voice assistant has its strengths — features like Microsoft Outlook and Exchange email integration for Cortana and smart-home controls or shopping for Alexa — and that customers of both companies would benefit from an integration.

In order for a user to get to the other assitant’s features, they must first tell their current assistant to “open” the other.

owners of Amazon Echos and other Alexa-powered devices will be able to say: “Alexa, open Cortana” to start querying Microsoft’s voice assistant

This seems like a terrible user experience. The user has to know which assistant is good at which features. And what about areas where the assistants overlap, like search, weather, or reminders? That just seems like a recipe for confusion and a bad experience. I guess it’s not a surprise given that neither company is all that great at user interface design.

If Microsoft really wanted its services to be more widely available to other voice assistants then it would integrate these at the service layer, not the voice assistant layer. In this way, Alexa would just be able to handle requests that Cortana would otherwise handle and the user wouldn’t know, or care, about who was handling what.

Of course, that means users would become even less likely to use Cortana. But does anyone really think this approach will cause more Cortana usage?

I wonder if this is yet another case of team politics playing out at Microsoft. I know I saw a lot this type of strange (and bad) decision when I was there.

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