AMAZON ECHO DEVICES can now make calls using Skype, as the bond between the e-tailer and shonk-pedaller Microsoft grows ever closer.
Although screen-based devices like the Echo Show have always been able to handle video calls, the introduction of Skype means that any Echo device, however old, can make calls, audio, or where available, video too.
Alexa can either dial from your contact list - "Dial the office" or a phone number "Dial 01-811-8055".
The concept is nothing new. Google devices have been able to call phone numbers for months now. Meanwhile, Facebook has begun selling its Portal device, which does video-calling and very little else, making the arrival of Skype a major spoiler.
What's perhaps more interesting is what this all means for Cortana. There's no question that the voice assistant built into Windows and Xbox hasn't been an effective rival to Amazon and Google's versions, and during 2018, we've seen a growing partnership between Redmond and Amazon.
Microsoft had a stated policy at one time that it would not be releasing dedicated voice assistant hardware like Echo and Google Home, preferring to rely on always-on far-field microphones in existing laptops and games consoles.
But Cortana has always seemed to have more of a business focus than the others, and with its effectiveness dependent on individual users' hardware, it never really took off.
Indeed, as part of today's announcement, Microsoft Stores in the US have begun to sell Echo devices, which some are taking as an admission of defeat, although the official line is that Cortana and Alexa will work together rather than against each other.
But with this alliance continuing to grow, and Alexa now available as a Windows 10 UWP app to everyone, and very little new functionality for Cortana recently, we have to question whether its days are numbered.
Meanwhile, If you'd like to link your Skype account to Alexa, just open up the app. μ
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