Microsoft announced a few new Cortana features today, including a Skills Kit and a Devices SDK. This adds on top of other recent developments, such as Cortana working on IoT devices and supporting far-field speech communication.
The Skills Kit seems to do the exact same thing that Amazon's Alexa skills do. Examples that Microsoft provides include Capital One (which already is offered on Alexa), Expedia to help users book hotels, Knowmail to help prioritize emails while on-the-go, and TalkLocal to help users find local services.
Alexa currently offers well over a thousand skills, and Microsoft says that the Skills Kit will make it easy to repurpose code to make those into Cortana skills. Developers will also be able to use the Microsoft Bot Framework, and integrate their web services.
And then there's the Devices SDK. This will allow third-party OEMs to make their own Cortana-powered devices. It will be a cross-platform solution, working on "Windows IoT, Linux, Android and more through open-source protocols and libraries."
The company even teased a Harman Kardon device that's powered by Cortana, although we won't know more about it until 2017.
For those that are looking for Cortana to compete with Amazon's Alexa, this is it. We've heard about far-field speech communication, and now the Device SDK covers the hardware while the Skills Kit covers the software. If you're a fan of Cortana, spring 2017 should certainly be an interesting time.