Alexa and Cortana are Friends Part I: A Market Perspective

Cortana and Alexa are becoming friends. At least they are talking to each other ;). Last Wednesday, Microsoft and Amazon announced their intention of integrating their digital assistants(DA) so that users can take advantage of both runtimes simultaneously. The first iteration of the Alexa-Cortana integration is scheduled for later this year and, although simplistic, it enables all sorts of interesting scenarios.

The basic integration pattern being implemented will allow users interacting with either Alexa or Cortana to launch the other assistant respectively without having to abandon their runtime. Using that pattern, a user interacting with Alexa can launch Cortana by simply saying something around the lines of: “Alexa, please open Cortana”. Similarly, Cortana users will be able to launch Alexa directly from the Microsoft’s DA runtime. While the interaction model seems pretty basic from the conversational standpoint, it has some profound implications for the DA market and the evolution of voice conversational models in general.

What Does the Alexan-Cortana Integration Means for the DA Market?

Even though we are still in pretty early stages, we can start speculating about some of the potential implications of the integration between Cortana and Alexa. Today, I would like to cover some of my impressions from the market perspective and in the second part of this article we will discuss some of the implications from the technological standpoint. Let’s review a few of my initial thoughts:

1 — Skill Domain Segmentation

The Alexa-Cortana integration indirectly acknowledges leverages the strengths and addresses the weaknesses of each DA on several market areas. For instance, by launching Cortana, Alexa users will be able to better interact with Microsoft’s information worket products such as Office365 or Dynamics365. similarly, Cortana users will be abel to take advantage of Alexa’s borad home automation skills portfolio.

2 — Close the Door to Google and Apple

By partnering with Microsoft, Amazon will be potentially constraining the avenues for home-assistants competitors such as Google Home or Apple HomePod to gain relevant market traction.

3 — Ad-Revenue Sharing Agreements

Digital assistants are one of the new and most desired runtimesofothee next generation of digital advertisement platforms. Voice-based advertisement on DA runtimes will unlock new sources of revenues for ad-publishers and have the potential of creating brand new ad-exchange models. I am very intrigued some potential ad-revenue sharing models that could be enabled by the integration between Cortana and Alexa.

A First Step Towards AI Group Conversations

The Alexa-Cortana integration is based on a single pattern that allows a user to launch a DA by directing a voice instruction to another DA. While that pattern seem technologically trivial, it can also be considered the first iteration towards conversational models that involve multiple DA agents. If you think about traditional patterns in human group conversations, there are some very interesting ideas that can be explored to enrich the dialogs involving Alexa, Cortana and end users.

Let’s be a bit ambitious and think beyond the basic runtime switching model enabled by the first iteration of the Alexa-Cortana integration. Imagine scenarios in which two DAs can interact with each other in order to provide the best answer to a user or they can intelligently delegate questions or answers on each other based on their expertise. In the next part of this article, I will present some of the group conversation patterns that I think can enrich multi-DA interactions such as the ones powered by the integration between Alexa and Cortana.

CEO of IntoTheBlock, Chief Scientist at Invector Labs, I write The Sequence Newsletter, Guest lecturer at Columbia University, Angel Investor, Author, Speaker.

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