Amazon releases surprise Alexa app for Microsoft Xbox, with voice controls and video features

(Amazon screenshot)

Amazon is bringing new voice control capabilities to Microsoft’s gaming consoles with the surprise release of a new “Alexa for Xbox” app.

The announcement goes far beyond the Alexa skill rolled out for the devices back in 2018 and further signals the fading consumer relevance of Microsoft’s own voice assistant, Cortana, which was removed from Xbox One in July 2019.

The new app appears in the Microsoft Store and was discovered overnight by several outlets that follow Microsoft closely, including MSPoweruser and Windows Central. A news release from Amazon on Wednesday announced the app for users in the U.S. and Canada, and said that it would enable more ways for Xbox Series X|S customers to interact with consoles using voice, as well as access visual Alexa features on TV screens.

The app still requires a user to connect the Xbox to an Amazon Echo or other Alexa-enabled device. Voice commands can be used to turn a console on or off; launch a game; check for new games; switch to content on another app such as Netflix; pause a show or movie and more.

(Amazon screenshot)

The app also turns an Xbox-connected television into a visual command center with Alexa capabilities. Users can talk to Alexa on the Xbox to play music, check email, and view calendars or weather reports. And they can operate other smart devices such as home cameras, which will send visuals back to the TV.

Too busy gaming to answer the front door for a food delivery? “Alexa, show me the front-door camera.”

Amazon says “Alexa for Xbox” will be available for download on all Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles in the coming days.

Voicebot.ai reported that the dedicated Alexa app and deep integration of Amazon’s voice assistant make it easier to install and use, which could encourage people to use Alexa over Google Assistant or Cortana, which are still available as skills through enabled devices.

Microsoft announced last year that it was discontinuing all third-party Cortana skills on Sept. 7, and that it planned early this year to stop supporting the Cortana app for iOS and Android devices. The decision reflected Microsoft’s focus on business and enterprise technology over consumer offerings.

Microsoft said at the time that it would focus on repurposing aspects of Cortana for its suite of productivity products rather than attempting to compete on consumer devices with leaders in the virtual assistant space, like Apple, Google, and Amazon. Cortana has fallen behind those competitors as Microsoft doubles down on enterprise technology



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