Cortana has reached out to several Amazon Alexa developers recruiting them to port their existing skills to Cortana Skills Kit (CSK). The recruitment email suggests that the skills will be available to 145 million monthly active Cortana users on Windows, Android, iOS and Xbox. The email also includes this language:
Your skill will also run on the upcoming Harman Kardon premium smart speaker, a Cortana-powered device that will come out-of-the-box with Cortana’s productivity skills, two-way Skype calling, and extensive library of facts and answers.
Will Microsoft Be First to Market with Voice Assistant Calling?
The Wall Street Journal reported in February that Amazon and Google were both working on voice calling for their Alexa and Google Assistant solutions respectively. Earlier this month Recode reported that a voice intercom – not quite calling but still – was already in Beta for the Alexa Voice Service. Consumers have already found many ways to use their table-top voice assistants in the home (this Experian Study lists 18 common uses). However, many observers think that voice communication may be the killer app for these devices the same way that email was for the early internet.
Microsoft has had a more tepid start in this market than arch-rivals Amazon and Google despite good reviews of the Cortana assistant’s speech recognition capabilities. Being later to market with a home-based voice-first device is a disadvantage unless you can bring a new, compelling feature to the table. This is where Microsoft has a big advantage. It already knows voice communication from its Skype division. It has technology, know-how and telecom relationships to make this work from the outset.
This could mean Microsoft Cortana actually comes to market first with voice calling. That could really shake up the market provided Cortana has other skills to complement what a smartphone already does today.