Voice is one of the easiest ways to interact with any gadget. It is also fun and feels very natural. The popularity of smart speakers in recent times proves it. The big players like Amazon, Google, and even Apple has already got their share of the smart speaker segment. The only Cortana powered smart speaker that came to the market was the Harmon Kardon Invoke. But because of Cortana being not as popular as the other assistants, it never really stole much market share.
But that will not keep Microsoft from thinking of making a smart speaker themselves instead of relying on hardware partners. Microsoft is reportedly working on a Cortana powered smart speaker along with Quanta Computer, which is a Taiwanese manufacturer. If this speaker ever sees daylight, then Quanta Computer would be manufacturing it.
At CES 2018, Qualcomm announced that their Smart audio platform will begin support for Cortana. The report also mentions that the smart speaker will be powered by the Snapdragon 212 SoC. It is powered by 4 ARM Cortex A7 processors and has a clock speed of up to 1.3 GHz. Snapdragon 212 was originally designed for smartphones and likewise devices but now has IoT core built into it. This may not seem like a powerful chip but a smart speaker doesn’t need good processing power as everything is done in the cloud.
Microsoft works on a lot of products, but only a few make it to the market. So we should take this with a grain of salt as the hardware design of this device is in the very early stages. A lot of things have to be considered before they decide to manufacture it in large scale.
It is also not clear what branding this device will have because this design can also be made just as a reference for other manufacturers. If Microsoft is planning to manufacture the speaker in their own name, then it is very likely that it will fall under the Surface brand.
Many people might have rejected the Harmon Kardon Invoke smart speaker just because it is powered by Cortana. But one thing to remember is that Cortana is more intelligent than Siri but not as intelligent as Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
At Build 2018, Microsoft has finally announced the much awaited Cortana-Alexa integration. This means that the Cortana powered speaker will also have Alexa in it. This will definitely make it more appealing. Soon Amazon Echo speakers will also have Cortana integrated into them. So by the time this speaker actually launches in the market, Cortana will hopefully get the love it deserves from the people.