Microsoft has opened up Cortana to third-party device makers and third-party developers, with the introduction of the Cortana Skills Kit and Cortana Devices SDK.
The Skills Kit enables developers to leverage bots and publish them to Cortana as a new 'skill', integrate web services and repurpose code from their existing Alexa skills. Once the kit has been put to use, Cortana will be able respond to the relevant voice command and present the necessary skill.
The kit preview is currently only available privately to a select number of partners. These partners include Knowmail, Capital One, Expedia and TalkLocal. Microsoft is aiming to broaden availability in February 2017.
The Devices SDK makes Cortana available to all third-party hardware makers to build their devices with Cortana available as feature – with or without a display. As with the Skills Kit, the SDK is only available in private preview for the time being, with a broader release planned for 2017.
Microsoft is also currently working with Connecticut-based hardware makers Harman Kardon to produce a voice-activated speaker – describing it as ‘one early device partner' – as it looks to challenge Amazon’s Echo. This follows recent reports that Microsoft is looking to make Cortana the centre of a connected home by introducing a new feature to Windows 10.