IF YOU USE SKYPE and own an Amazon Echo, then good news: you'll soon be able to talk to people other than Alexa through your smart speaker. The latest instalment of the bromance enveloping Microsoft and Amazon is that Skype will soon be available on the Echo.
If you have an Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Plus, that means voice calls. Just say "Alexa, call Terry on Skype" and the Echo will magically dial Terry - assuming you actually know somebody called Terry. It's not just going to find a Terry for you to chat with. If you have one of the new-fangled screen-toting Echo Shows, you'll also be able to activate video calls, too, so you can see Terry's happy little face.
The feature is coming "later this year" which is pretty vague, but doesn't leave much wiggle room considering I saw my first mince pies for sale last week. Christmas is coming.
Amazon has been getting buddy-buddy with Microsoft for some time, and this is a far more convincing fit than the previous effort, which saw Cortana appearing on Amazon Echos, and Alexa moonlighting on Windows 10.
If that sounds remotely useful, you're assuming user experience played any part in the design process, and it was at best an afterthought. To access Cortana on an Echo, you'd have to say "Alexa, open Cortana" and then make your request which most likely could have been done by Alexa anyway.
Alexa integration on Windows 10 was even more iffy: does anyone really want to ask their computer to get a second voice assistant to take instruction, when a mouse and keyboard is right there in front of you?
Skype on Echo, on the other hand, is a far more sensible proposition, essentially making the Echo a dedicated phone line in an age where dedicated phone lines are glorified broadband plugs.
At the very least, this means you'll be able to ask your real-life human Skype contacts to tell you a joke, if Alexa's dubious efforts fail to entertain you. µ
Bad for shareholders, mildly good for the planet
YouTube on the Tube
Claims that it hasn't ever actually worked