Announced a year ago and much delayed, the meeting of artificial minds is created to being the best of the business-focused Microsoft Cortana to Amazon's market leader Alexa. Microsoft and Amazon think users, rightly so, will have something to say about the final product, and are actively seeking feedback from users on the quality of the integration, taking suggestions on how to improve it.
If you want to try it our right now on an Echo device, say "Alexa, open Cortana" and the assistant will show you the steps to set up your Microsoft account. Similarly, on devices powered by Alexa, including Amazon's Echo speakers, users will be able to summon Cortana by saying "Alexa, open Cortana".
The reason this was allowed to happen is a lack of overlap. You can now access both Alexa and Cortana on each of them. While Alexa can do a number of things Cortana can't (such as calling an Uber or one of Alexa's thousands of skills), it can't, for example, send emails or messages to friends who don't have Alexa's messaging service.
Not every feature from both systems is included, but the vast majority will work including home control, something that Cortana remains limited in.
"Currently, Cortana and Alexa can each be enabled as a skill on the other", Microsoft explained, highlighting some basic use cases for Cortana users.
Note that typing "open Alexa" will not work-you need to trigger this with a voice command. After all, the advent of Alexa for Business means that Microsoft likely needs Amazon more than the other way around.
Upon doing this the first time, you'll be prompted with instructions on linking the two services; you'll also need a Microsoft account, which you'll have to sign into. As for Alexa users, Microsoft says Cortana's knowledge, as well as calendar management and rich email integration, will come in handy for Alexa users.
Amazon has already started rolling out a separate Alexa UWP app to certain computers which offers a more direct integration but doesn't snuggle up to Cortana in the same way. The integration also brings access to Alexa's large library of skills. But I just don't see most people thinking about relying on different digital assistants for different types of tasks.