Exactly 3 months ago Microsoft announced a partnership with Amazon which would see each company’s digital assistant hosted on the other’s hardware, meaning you can access Cortana skills from your Amazon Echo and vice versa.
At the time the major benefit would be to Cortana users, who would be able to access Alexa’s 20,000 skills, while Amazon Echo users would mainly benefit by being able to access Cortana’s specialities, which was mainly access to Office365 data and other business applications.
Users would be able to say “Alexa, Open Cortana” followed by their command such as “When is the next budget review” which is only available to Microsoft’s AI.
It seems however that Amazon was no happy to leave that weakness in Alexa unplugged.
At the Amazon re:Invent conference, the company announced Alexa for Business, a platform which would make the Amazon Echo range more at home at work.
Initial applications would be for data organization and teleconferencing, and there are reports of a special marketplace for business skills also. Amazon also announced enhanced security layers that could authenticate multiple people in one space.
The move illustrates the risk of relying on complementary partnerships. At some point, it may be easier and more productive for a partner to defect and built their own capacity, which tends to leave the unprepared partner up a creek without a paddle. Hopefully, Microsoft will start rowing much harder now.