Amazon Alexa will soon arrive on Windows PCs, creating new competition for Microsoft’s built-in Cortana voice assistant.
Hardware makers HP, ASUS, Acer and others plan to bring Alexa to their computers this year, further expanding the reach of Amazon’s voice assistant. The integrations, announced at CES in Las Vegas, will allow PC users to interact with Alexa in much the same way as they do on Amazon Echo speakers and third-party devices — to control the lights, get flash briefings, or anything else Alexa normally does.
“This is a big step toward making Alexa available wherever customers might need her,” said Steve Rabuchin, Amazon Alexa vice president, in a news release announcing Acer’s integration of Alexa into select Acer Aspire, Spin, Switch and Swift notebooks, and Aspire all-in-one PCs.
HP plans to roll out Alexa for its HP Pavilion Wave desktop computer tower, which doubles as an audio speaker. The computer maker says it will add a custom LED to the tower to indicate when Alexa is listening.
Windows 10 and its 600 million active users have, until now, largely been the domain of Microsoft Cortana, which comes built into the operating system. With the new integration by PC makers, Amazon could be in a position to leverage Alexa’s high profile in the home to overshadow Cortana on Windows PCs.
This could get awkward for Microsoft and Amazon. With the PC integrations, Amazon is moving Alexa onto Microsoft’s turf at a time when the two Seattle-area companies are separately working to make Alexa and Cortana work together. The rollout of the Alexa-Cortana integration, announced last year, has been delayed but is expected to start soon.
Both Google and Amazon have a larger footprint than Cortana does in speakers and smart-home devices, and they’ll be battling it out at CES this week. Amazon Alexa has spread from the company’s Echo speakers into a growing number of third-party devices, in settings ranging from the car to the bathroom. Amazon says there are more than 50 third-party devices with Alexa built-in before any announcements at CES this week.
Google Assistant, meanwhile, has expanded from Android devices to Google Home speakers and third-party devices, as well.
Acer says it will bring Alexa to its PCs through an update starting in the first quarter of this year, with a wider rollout expected in mid-2018. Acer’s Spin 5 and Switch 7 Black Edition notebooks will include four microphones to support far-field voice recognition for Alexa up to nine feet away. Other Acer machines with dual microphones will allow users to activate Alexa from within three feet, the company says.
Acer says it’s also adding Alexa to its new V6820M and V6820i 4K UHD projectors. Acer already integrates Alexa into its Acer Air Monitor.
Both HP and Acer are uses Intel’s Smart Sound Technology to allow their computers hear voice commands from afar, at different angles, much as dedicated smart speaker devices do.
UPDATE: ASUS says it will support Alexa in select models of its 2018 ZenBook and VivoBook laptops, with the first models to be announced during the first half of 2018. Also at CES, the company is showing its hybrid Lyra Voice WiFi system and voice assistant, which comes with stereo speakers and a microphone, and also integrates Amazon Alexa.