Unlike Amazon and Google, Amazon and Microsoft have been on decent terms with each other recently. Last year, the two companies announced plans to allow their virtual assistants, Alexa and Cortana, to “talk” to each other on Windows 10 PCs. At CES, a number of Windows 10 PC manufacturers are announcing their own partnerships with Amazon to integrate Alexa into their devices, a separate initiative with the apparent goal of bringing full Alexa features to Windows 10 devices.
“Hands-free access to Alexa on PCs can be helpful to customers in many ways, like making it simple to interact with your smart home, get news or weather, set timers, and more,” Steve Rabuchin, vice president of Amazon’s Alexa division, said in Acer’s press release. “This is a big step toward making Alexa available wherever customers might need her.”
Acer, Asus, and HP have all announced forthcoming PCs that integrate Alexa: select Acer Aspire, Spin, Switch, and Swift notebooks and some Aspire all-in-one PCs; select Asus ZenBook and VivoBook laptops; and HP’s new Pavilion Wave PC, which looks most like an Amazon Echo than any of the other devices. Some of the new devices will use Intel’s Smart Sound Technology, an integrated audio DSP, for improved audio, voice, and speech interactions with Alexa.
These devices will reportedly use a new Alexa Windows 10 app that’s being developed and will be released later this year. The new app will allow users to ask Alexa questions just like they would with an Echo device. Since all of these devices have a screen or can be connected to a monitor, Alexa will be able to display information in addition to providing audio feedback. However, not all Alexa features will be available at launch, so users will have to wait even longer to be able to access security camera feeds, use Amazon’s calling and messaging services, and use streaming services like Spotify.
Amazon’s latest partnership with PC OEMs is separate from its partnership with Microsoft that aims to have Alexa and Cortana speak to each other. Windows PC users could say “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” to access Alexa’s more than 25,000 skills and other features. The goal was to have Alexa and Cortana playing nicely with each other by December 2017, but that deadline came and went without any major updates.
The two companies haven’t announced changes to the original partnership, but it appears Amazon is starting to take another approach to getting Alexa in front of millions of Windows 10 users. Alexa’s reach isn’t necessarily a problem for Amazon, but the company doesn’t have the hardware platform advantages that Google does, as Google’s Assistant is available to millions of Android users already.