Earlier this week, Harman Kardon announced the Invoke, its Cortana-enabled Amazon Echo competitor. While Harman Kardon was the first company to integrate Cortana into this kind of device, it’s not going to be the only one for long. As Microsoft announced today, HP has also signed on to build similar devices. Intel, too, is getting into this game, and promises to soon launch reference designs for Cortana-enabled devices.
It’s somewhat odd that Microsoft is leaving this market to hardware partners and that it isn’t launching its own Echo and Google Home competitor. With its recent slate of Surface devices, Microsoft has clearly proven that it can build very good hardware, after all, and while the market for AI-enabled speakers is still nascent, there is clearly a market for them.
Rumor has it that Microsoft will also try another approach to taking on the Echo — and that approach will look more like a PC. If those rumors are true, then its “HomeHub” feature for Windows 10 will be its first tentative foray into this market. The HomeHub will start as a feature in Windows 10 — basically for kitchen PCs — with an always-on screen for pinning notes, calendars and to-do lists. But those are basically full PCs, not just connected speakers — and here, too, Microsoft will likely bet on partners to produce these devices and won’t built its own.
As for what HP’s device will actually look like, we’re still waiting to hear more from Microsoft and will update this post once we learn more later this morning.
In addition to these new hardware partners, Microsoft also today announced that Cortana Skills, its framework for building skills for Cortana, is now in public preview. While the company had already announced this service, it was previously only available to a few select partners. For now, though, the Cortana Skills kit is only available in the U.S.