Microsoft has built a not-yet-public listing in its online Store site that lists some details about the coming Cortana-powered speaker from Harman Kardon. As discovered by "The Walking Cat" on Twitter, the still-publicly-unpublished page indicates that the coming Invoke speaker will be available in two colors: Graphite (black) and Pearl Silver. The price for either model is listed as $199.95. The page currently indicates both models as "sold out" even though they haven't yet gone on sale, which indicates that this may be just a placeholder price listing. Microsoft announced late last year that Harman Kardon would be making the first Cortana-powered standalone speaker that's meant to rival the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Siri HomePod smart speaker.
If 2016 was the year of VR, then 2017 looks all set to be the year of smart home automation. Amazon's Alexa Echo skills have taken home voice controls mainstream in the last few months and Google's Home speaker – which went on sale recently – signals the search giant's intent in the area. And it looks as if Microsoft doesn't want to miss out. The tech giant's digital assistant Cortana, which has impressed over the last few years across Windows Phones, Xboxes and Windows PCs, is about to spread its virtual wings into new hardware – most notably a speaker from Harman Kardon. A teaser video for the "new voice activated speaker by Harman Kardon, with Cortana" has just gone live promising the device will be where "Premium Audio Meets Personal Assistant".
Harman Kardon's Invoke speaker, the Microsoft Cortana-powered answer to the Google Home and Amazon Echo, will ship this fall according to a preview page with the first official images of the tabletop device. Though pricing hasn't yet been revealed, Harman Kardon said that the Invoke will perform three major tasks: make and receive calls with Skype, control popular music services like Microsoft Groove, and "get things done" with Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant. Microsoft said it would team up last year with Harman Kardon as part of a new Internet of Things initiative powered by Cortana. Though the initial partnership was expected inside connected cars, it appears both companies will leap into homes first. Harman was showing off the new Invoke on a preview page on its website that's since be unpublished, inviting potential buyers to sign up.
When Microsoft unveiled Cortana three years ago, it was positioned as the company's response to Siri and Google Now. But as Windows Phone faltered, Microsoft wisely shifted Cortana over to other mobile platforms and Windows PCs, where it could hook into your calendar and email to offer even more personalized assistance. Now, it appears that Microsoft wants Cortana to take over yet another space -- the living room. At Build, Microsoft's annual developer conference, the company revealed that it was working on several Cortana-powered smart speakers that would take on Amazon's Echo. Aside from the Harmon Kardon Invoke that was leaked earlier this week, both HP and Intel are working on their own Cortana-powered speakers.
Cortana and Alexa just went from being rivals to being besties. Microsoft and Amazon's respective digital assistants are teaming up to work together later this year, the companies surprisingly announced today. That means you'll be able to tap into Alexa's smarts via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs and (further down the line) Microsoft's mobile Cortana apps, or access Cortana via Amazon's Echo devices and Alexa-enabled phones like the HTC U11 and Huawei Mate 9. You'll need to specifically summon the assist, however, by saying "Cortana, open Alexa" or "Alexa, open Cortana." The timing might seem weird with Cortana-powered devices like the Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker launching this fall. But with both digital assistants owning a firm niche--PCs and Office software for Microsoft, smart speakers for Amazon--the collaboration helps them extend their reach without stepping on each other's toes too much.