Slide, Cortana. Amazon's Alexa is targeting Windows PCs, as Amazon has forged strong partnerships with Acer, Asus and HP here at CES.
Both Amazon and Microsoft had already planned to bring the digital assistant Alexa to smart speakers such as the Harman Kardon Invoke, as part of a set of "skills" that allowed integrations of third-party applications to add additional intelligence. But this is a bit different: the makers of Amazon and PC are bringing an Alexa application to select Windows PC, challenging Cortana in their own territory.
Specifically, Amazon will appear in:
- Select Acer Aspire, Spin, Switch, and Swift laptops, as well as Aspire all-in-one laptops from the first quarter of 2018, through the Acer Care Center. More assistance is expected by mid-year.
- Asus will add Alexa to select the ZenBook and VivoBook notebooks in 2018.
- HP will add Alexa to its $ 549 Pavilion Wave, a small format compact desktop with built-in Alexa.
"Hands-free access to Alexa on PC can be useful for customers in many ways, such as facilitating interaction with your smart home, getting news or weather information, setting timers and more," said Steve Rabuchin, vice president Amazon Alexa, as part of Acer's announcement. "This is a big step to make Alexa available where customers need it."
It's a strong quote. One of Cortana's biggest weaknesses is the lack of smart controls in the home, as indicated earlier this year by our Invoke review of our smart home site, TechHive. Although Cortana and the Invoke can power Philips Hue's colored light bulbs, they can not communicate with connected products from Ecobee, LIFX, iDevices, Lowe's Iris, TP-Link, GE C, Chamberlain, Vivint Smart Home, Wemo, Dish Network. , or any of a long list of other products or service providers. Alexa can.
It is possible, too, that hardware manufacturers do not feel that Microsoft can keep up with natural language processing. Steve Chang, president of Asus North America, said in a statement that "the combination of Alexa with Asus PC will allow customers to complete a variety of previously complex tasks, simply by talking." While Windows PCs allow users to talk to Cortana, too, Asus may feel that Alexa offers a more natural experience.
Then there is the revealing phrase in the Asus press release from Anand Srivatsa, general manager of Intel for desktop, channel and systems group, that the PC "is the definitive device to bring all your digital experiences together," including productivity, games and smart home or office management.
The "Wintel" association, which represents the experience in Intel components combined with software and services provided by Microsoft, can still be maintained, but apparently it is not the exclusive partnership assumed by Microsoft.