Microsoft releases Cortana Skill Kit and lets developers convert Alexa Skills

Microsoft releases Cortana Skill Kit and lets developers convert Alexa Skills
At the annual developer conference Microsoft Build, Microsoft announced the release of the Cortana Skills Kit for public preview, as the company tries to catch up with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Microsoft’s Bot Framework lets developers use the development kit to build voice applications (also called skills here for Cortana) and publish them on the platform. Alternatively, developers who have created Alexa skills may also use the Bot Framework to convert them into Cortana skills.

Cortana skills will work on apps for Windows 10, Android, iOS devices and the recently announced Cortana-powered speaker Invoke.

Microsoft’s partner and tech giant HP will release Cortana-enabled devices while chipmaker Intel will develop reference designs for Cortana, Microsoft said.

Partners that were involved in a private beta test have already rolled out Cortana skills, including Expedia, Domino’s Pizza, OpenTable, iHeartRadio and TalkLocal. Training sessions on building voice-centric experience apps and how to design, build, test and publish skills using the Azure Bot Framework were also held at the developer conference, as Microsoft pushes for greater Cortana adoption.

The company says there are over 500 million devices installed with Windows 10 but only 145 million devices use Cortana every month.

Over 130,000 developers are using the Microsoft Bot Framework to build conversational service, much more than 45,000 in September 2016. Bot Framework allows developers to publish bots on Cortana, communication service Skype and business communication platform Slack.

Meanwhile, the company also said it will offer 29 Cognitive Services allowing developers to use its AI capabilities to build applications.

Shipping of Cortana-powered smart speaker Invoke will start this fall.

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