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Skype calling coming to Amazon Alexa devices later this year

Microsoft and Amazon are working together to bring Skype calling to Alexa-powered devices, which brings into question, again, where Microsoft is going with Cortana.

In what Microsoft officials are calling "the next step in the collaboration between Microsoft and Amazon," Skype calling support is coming to Alexa devices starting later this year. Microsoft and Amazon announced the latest piece of their year-plus-old partnership on September 20, 2018, the day Amazon unveiled a bevy of new connected devices.

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Alexa users will be able to make outgoing Skype voice and video calls, accept incoming Skype calls and make SkypeOut calls to most phone numbers around the world, according to MIcrosoft officials. Users will be able to say "Alexa, call Jimmy on Skype," or to say "Alexa, answer" when a Skype call comes in.

"Amazon, Skype, and Microsoft have had a collaborative relationship to bring customers new experiences such as Skype and Bing on Fire tablets, Alexa on Xbox, as well as integrating Alexa and Cortana. Allowing customers to link Skype with Alexa was a natural extension of our work together and we can't wait for customers to try it out," said a spokesperson in a prepared statement.

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Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft previously had touted the Cortana-powered Harman Kardon Invoke speaker as the premiere speaker for supporting Skype calls. As Windows Central noted today -- the day that the Invoke, once priced at $200 was discounted to $50 by Best Buy -- that Skype-calling advantage is no longer a real differentiator.

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Microsoft officials have said they're working to reposition Cortana from an assistant to an "assistance aide." To me, would seem to include assisting with placing and receiving Skype calls. I have to admit at this point I am kind of lost as to how Microsoft hopes to differentiate and position Cortana. Granted, Microsoft execs said they want Cortana not to be just about convenience, but about built-in assistance, but Skype is a Microsoft service...

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In 2017, Microsoft and Amazon announced a deal via which the two would enable their respective virtual assistants to work together. On August 15, the pair opened up initial integration between Cortana and Alexa to the public, beginning in the U.S.

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