The HK invoke

Microsoft is looking to compete against both Amazon and Google (AI powered speakers) with a partnership with audio and video device manufacturing giant Harman/Kardon.
“We’re excited to share that today, our partner Harman Kardon, released new details about the previously announced voice-activated speaker featuring Cortana” says Microsoft in its own blog post.

The invoke combines premium 360 degree with the power of Cortana. Microsoft is quite late to the party in this market segment since the Amazon Echo was launched way back in 2014 and currently holds 70% of the total market share of smart AI powered speakers, while google launched the google home in 2016 which holds a modest 23.8% according to eMarketer.

This being the case,what this Microsoft-Harman/Kardon partnership brings to the table is critical for it to have any chance of success. Luckily Harman/Kardon also gave some technical details into the device:

  1. The device will have premium sound featuring 3 woofers and 3 tweeters for full range 360 degree sound and two radiators tuned to give a solid bass
  2. The device will also be Cortana enabled, meaning the personal digital assistant will be able to set alarms, queue your music, manage your calendar, give answers to questions among other functions. The device will also be Skype integrated meaning you will be able to make and receive hands free calls on landlines, cell phones and other Skype enabled devices
  3. The speaker can help control smart home appliances such as thermostats
  4. Featuring 7 microphones embedded into the speaker, using Harman’s beam forming, echo cancellation, and noise reduction algorithms the device ensures that Cortana can hear you, even in challenging and noisy environments.

Within all this is a properly crafted aluminum cylindrical form factor (like the echo) with a ring at the top and screen that shows an animation when Cortana is listening to you; this device will be nothing short of premium.

As for price and availability, the device will debut in the United States and it is unclear whether it will get to other regions. Neither Harman Kardon nor Microsoft have mentioned anything about the price of the device, however, given the reputation of the two companies and their hardware divisions, the product will also come at a premium price. However the pricing of this device will also be critical if Microsoft wants to snatch some market share and compete against Google and Amazon’s AI powered home smart speaker offerings.

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