Amazon Quietly Releases Alexa for Xbox App
A new Xbox app for Alexa has appeared without any fanfare, allowing voice control of Alexa-enabled devices through the line of video game consoles. The app gives Alexa a privileged position beyond even what Microsoft’s own Cortana voice assistant once offered.
The new Alexa app works with the whole range of current Xbox consoles, including Microsoft Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, and the Xbox Series X|S. Once installed, the Xbox needs to be connected to an Amazon Echo or similar device, turning the Xbox into a kind of high-powered Alexa accessory. There’s already an Xbox Alexa skill, which launched in 2018 with the ability to turn on the console and launch games by asking the voice assistant, but the new app goes well beyond that.
Players can talk to Alexa on the Xbox like it’s a smart display and the television is its screen, playing music and managing their Amazon account. The smart home connection is by far the biggest upgrade, however. Alexa can run smart home devices through the video game console, and even show what connected cameras are seeing on the screen. If someone rings the doorbell while you’re playing a game, you can see who’s at the door on the TV, without having to get up and look at an Echo Show or pulling out your phone.
“Alexa for Xbox brings our top features to your TV,” the app description explains. “Just ask Alexa to play music, view your Smart Home cameras, manage your shopping list, and more.”
The Alexa app expands upon the Xbox Alexa skill by making control reciprocal. Where before Alexa could operate the Xbox to run games, take screenshots, and other operations, the new app opens a pathway back to allow the Xbox to run Alexa devices. That puts Amazon’s voice assistant ahead of Google Assistant or Cortana. The Google Assistant action for Xbox can run a console’s main functions, but not vice versa.
The dedicated Alexa app and deep integration also make the voice assistant easier to install and use, which could encourage people to use Alexa over Google Assistant or Cortana. Microsoft’s embrace of Alexa to this extent makes plenty of sense since it removed Cortana voice control from Xbox consoles after three years, making it available only as a skill on other devices. Removing Cortana from the Xbox One was part of Cortana’s larger, ongoing shift from a consumer product to a purely business and enterprise tool.