Harmon Kardon Invoke
Image Courtesy: OneTechStop

The last couple of years showed a rapid increase in smart speaker adoption. Google, Amazon, and even Apple have bumped up their game. Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are ruling the smart speaker segment with their affordable solutions. Apple’s Homepod is nowhere near affordable but Apple always has a loyal customer base ready to buy Apple products no matter how expensive they get. Microsoft also introduced Cortana into a smart speaker specifically the Harmon Kardon Invoke.

The Invoke is also a premium product though not as expensive as the Homepod. Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers are available in different price brackets. They are also the most popular smart speakers. A recent survey has found that 66% of all smart speakers used by people are Amazon Echo devices. This includes the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus and Echo Spot. Amazon obviously had their headstart by coming first in the smart speaker business. Google Home smart speakers come in the second place with 30% market share. The rest 4% is owned by the Sonos One. If you are wondering about the Apple Homepod and the Harmon Kardon Invoke, well, the survey was conducted on just 1097 Americans and they don’t happen to own any of these.

According to the survey conducted by Kantar US Insights only 34% of Americans own a smart speaker. On a gender basis, smart speakers are more popular with men than women. An interesting this is that, out of these men about 60% are between the ages of 72 and 82 while women between the ages of 21 and 26 are the biggest owners.

Smart speaker statistics
Image Courtesy: Kantar

So what is so wrong with the Invoke smart speaker that made it sell so less. Actually, nothing is wrong with it. It is a great product with better audio capabilities than what Google and Amazon offer. But Cortana has only a few skill sets when compared to Alexa and Google Assistant.

This is just like what happened with the smartphone market. Android and iOS easily became popular that it was difficult for Windows Phone to catch up. So what will Microsoft do with Cortana as the competition is now miles ahead? Will it suffer the same fate as Windows Phone?

Actually, Microsoft is all in on Cortana. They now have a separate division named “AI and Cloud” which will focus on improving Cortana. Cortana is the only digital assistant available on all major platforms. Cortana is available on Android, iOS, PCs, laptops, tablets and of course Windows Phones. Any device you own, there is a high probability that it will support Cortana.

Microsoft has moved Cortana from the Windows search bar to the action center in PCs in RS4. This will provide Cortana with more data about you which will help Cortana to be more personal. Microsoft has also opened up Cortana’s skill set to developers so that they can add more skills if they want to. Ecobee and IFTTT has also been added to Cortana’s features.

Microsoft’s plan is to put Cortana into the entire operating system specifically in the shell. Cortana is an intelligent assistant so if Cortana gets more integrated into the core of the operating system that would make Windows 10 an intelligent operating system. We have seen these kinds of things in movies like Iron Man where Jarvis in an intelligent voice assistant build right to whatever operating system Tony Stark uses. This is exactly what is going to happen with Cortana in the future. This may sound awkward but this is what Microsoft is actually working on. So the question whether Microsoft will ditch Cortana has been answered.

But the problem we have now is with smart speakers. Cortana is available in only one smart speaker and it isn’t selling well. The good news is that almost 60% of Americans don’t use a smart speaker. This means that Microsoft still has a chance with smart speakers. They need more hardware partners which can provide affordable devices running Cortana.

Another good thing is that Cortana-Alexa integration is still in the works. This means that there is a chance that we can see Cortana support in smart speakers running Alexa. This would also give some market to Cortana. So as of now, it is okay that Cortana smart speakers are not in the market. But Microsoft still has a lot of work to do if they want to see Cortana in the forefront. Let us know in the comments section what you think Microsoft should do to make Cortana popular.

  • Jack Smith

    Who would buy a Cortana speaker? We started with an Echo but since moved to the Google Home. Problem with the Echo is the requirement to use rigid language or basically commands.

    Versus with the GH for most things you can just say it however it pops up in your head.

  • JohnW

    One reason it doesn’t sell will us lack of availability. No one else them in Europe