Two virtual heads are better than one.
Despite being the first major tech company to release a virtual assistant, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has fallen behind the competition, most notably Amazon.com's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Alexa. That's especially true in the battle over the smart home, where Alexa has become a powerful assistant thanks to Amazon opening up Alexa as a platform back in 2015; Alexa now knows over 13,000 third-party Skills. Meanwhile, Apple and Amazon have had numerous standoffs across different competitive areas. One of these just ended, with Apple finally announcing earlier this month that Amazon Prime Video would be coming to Apple TV.
Given the tensions, it would seem unlikely that Alexa and Siri will ever get along and work together, but it appears that at least Amazon is open to the idea.
Apple probably should, but won't
At the Wired Business Conference yesterday, Amazon hardware chief David Limp said that Alexa and Siri should be able to cooperate, according to USA Today. Limp said, "You should be able to tell 'Alexa, ask Siri X.'" The executive said he'd be open to Apple or Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) subsidiary Google exploring a potential partnership, although Limp acknowledged the unlikelihood of that happening. There's little doubt that consumers would prefer the various virtual assistants in their lives being able to communicate with each other, which is what should matter most.
But rivals are probably more interested in using virtual assistants as potentially differentiating factors. For example, Google is betting that Google Home can answer a much broader set of questions, tapping into the search engine's "featured snippets" and relaying those through Google Home. While the implementation of that has approach been heavily criticized, if Google can improve the execution, that could be a compelling advantage for Google Home over Echo, and a feature that Google would rightly be averse to sharing.
Apple's HomePod was just announced and won't be available until December. The Mac maker is positioning its smart speaker at the premium end of the spectrum, hoping that high-fidelity audio will win over consumers -- its second attempt in as many years. However, Apple has been working on its smart home platform for years (HomeKit was released in 2014), which Siri on HomePod will be able to tap into, but Apple has very little to show for it thus far. The company only opened up Siri to third-party developers last year.
With that backdrop, if Apple were to theoretically partner with Amazon so that Alexa and Siri could interface with each other, it would probably benefit Apple more than Amazon, since Siri could ask Alexa to perform smart home tasks, and Alexa is capable of a whole lot more of those. Still, it probably won't happen.
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.