Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices are certainly the market leaders in the smart speaker category. And the more time that passes, the more useful they seem to get, thanks to developers bringing new “skills” to the devices — and even tech giants like Microsoft letting Alexa access their key services and features.
To that second point, Microsoft has just announced that Skype calling is now available via Alexa, with Amazon’s Echo hardware supporting basic Skype calling. Additionally, video calling support for Skype is coming to Amazon’s Echo Show, the company’s speaker that also sports a display.
It’s not just Microsoft, of course. Pandora is also stepping up its partnership with Amazon, making its paid subscription tier Pandora Premium available through Amazon Echo devices and Alexa speakers starting today. Per The Verge, Pandora Premium users are now able to stream songs, full albums, and playlists to Echo devices, and you can also set Pandora as the default music library on Alexa. Before this, you could only stream music from Pandora’s online radio service.
To use Pandora on Alexa devices, just begin a command with “Alexa” followed by asking her to play either Pandora or a specific song, album, or genre that you want.
As for the Microsoft news, when you link Skype with Alexa, you’ll get 100 minutes of free calls per month for two months, so 200 free minutes total. To set up Skype on your Alexa device, you can use the Amazon Alexa app for Android or iOS. You then go to Settings > Communication > Skype to link your accounts and then sign in using the Microsoft account you use on Skype.
Again, from The Verge: “The Skype and Alexa integration follows Microsoft’s increasingly close partnership with Amazon for Alexa, Cortana, and Xbox integration. The Xbox One now supports Alexa, and Amazon has launched its own Alexa Windows 10 app to bring the digital assistant to all PCs. Microsoft also just started selling Amazon’s Echo devices in its retail stores in the US this weekend.”