Alexa Quietly Dissolves Cortana Integration
Microsoft Cortana’s integration with Amazon Alexa has vanished without much fanfare more than three years after launching. The connection ended on September 18 but didn’t get any publicity at the time.
Cortana’s presence on Alexa devices provided Microsoft with a way to bring its voice assistant to a far wider audience than the increasingly rare consumer-level Cortana-native products. The dissolution of the connection means asking Alexa to use Cortana only gets Alexa to say, “Sorry, the Cortana skill is no longer available.” The decision isn’t surprising now, but it’s worth remembering how big a deal Microsoft and Amazon made of the plans for linking Cortana and Alexa back in 2017. Alexa was relatively new on the scene, and giving it the ability to run Microsoft programs like Outlook via Cortana seemed like a very attractive use case for those hesitant about getting an Echo smart speaker. Microsoft and Amazon are still partnered in other ways, such as the Voice Interoperability Initiative. Alexa still works on Windows PCs, but only after downloading the app from the Microsoft store, as does Cortana with the release of Windows 11.
Microsoft began shifting away from the Cortana as a consumer experience when it launched the Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise. The Cortana app shut down this year, and the Harman Kardon smart speaker no longer uses Cortana as a voice assistant. Cortana is far from gone, however. Microsoft keeps adding new voice AI features to its mobile apps and has fully integrated Cortana into its Microsoft 365 products. Microsoft Outlook has also integrated Cortana, letting users set up and confirm meetings by voice, and is a key element of the Teams platform. Cortana hasn’t totally vanished from devices either, though it’s pretty much done with smart speakers. The voice assistant runs the new Microsoft Surface Hub and Lenovo ThinkSmart View touchscreen computers. Though specialized around using Teams, the devices share similarities with Microsoft’s latest laptops, which can perform as voice-controlled smart displays.