Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Microsoft and Amazon Join Forces For Voice First (AI) Dominance

It has been reported that since May of last year, Microsoft and Amazon have been working in partnership to enable their respective AI digital assistants ‘Cortana’ and ‘Alexa’ to work together.

What Does This Mean?

In short, this partnership should mean that some of the skills, functions and strengths of Alexa will be available through Cortana, and vice versa. The initial integration will mean that users will be able to tell one digital assistant to open the other e.g. "Alexa, open Cortana". The partnership has created what is essentially the largest combined platform in the world with a pool of over 200 million users.

This should mean that value will be added to each digital assistant with customers benefitting from the leverage and synergies, and both companies being able to gain greater reach with their products, and to advance their AI work.

Momentous

Some technical commentators have described the move by Microsoft and Amazon to share and join forces on their AI assistants as being as momentous as when AOL and Compuserve opened their platforms up to interchange, and moved away from the confines of curated, separate platforms towards a more open Internet.

But Why?

There are many reasons why this partnership could benefit both companies as well as consumers. These include:
  • Microsoft and Amazon may have missed the smartphone revolution but are out in front in what is known as the ‘Voice First’ revolution. This refers to voice activated devices e.g. Amazon Echo. This is a way to further their lead in a lucrative and growing market. For example, there is an estimated 33 million voice-first devices in circulation (VoiceLabs figures).
  • Microsoft and Amazon joining forces will put a lot of pressure on competitors
    Apple and Google. Many tech commentators believe that Apple will not be able to combine forces with Google directly, and this will put Amazon and Microsoft even further out in front in this new market. Many still think, however, that Apple will advance with Siri in 2018 by opening it up to Workflow and deeper iMessage connections.
  • Both Amazon and Microsoft can gain from increased distribution of their products, and increased overlap into each-others’ markets e.g. Alexa getting into smartphones and PCs.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?


This story illustrates how strategic alliances can be mutually beneficial, help advance products / markets through synergy, and be an effective competitive tactic that can bring market advantages.

In the case of Microsoft and Amazon working together with their digital assistants, for business customers, this can mean easier access to the leveraged power of shared advanced technology (as a business tool) and a step towards simplification.

Alexa and Cortana’s relationship should be a step towards creating an open way to communicate and interconnect with AI platforms. While we are currently limited to in the short term to choosing one platform as a favourite, this move may contribute to (in the longer term) the creation of only one platform. For the business user (and customers using voice-activated devices) this will be a much simpler way of orchestrating multiple tasks and AI activities.

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