Microsoft might be late to the party, but it does not want to miss out on the action. It is aiming for a share in the digital assistant speaker pie. A pie that is being taken over by the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home. While Alexa powers the Amazon device, and a Google assistant powers its Home, Microsoft will be integrating Cortana with its new speaker.
Cortana has already impressed many with its work in Windows phones, Xboxes and Windows PCs. If that wasn’t enough, now Harmon Kardon is bringing their audio chops to the table. Given the audio company’s background, the new speaker could focus on music and entertainment for starters.
In an arena where Amazon specialises in e-commerce and Google is working to bring the Internet of Things together, Microsoft needs to carve a space out for itself. Just having the ability to have good speakers thanks to Harmon Kardon will not be enough. It has to bring enhanced voice recognition and functionality as well if it is going to make any sort of difference. A digital assistant is useless if it can perform tasks you assign it or even understand you.
The announcement of the speaker was in cohorts with the launch of the Cortana Skills Kit and Cortana Devices SDK. As mentioned in the Windows Blog, the Cortana Skills Kit allows developers to help users get things done. It aims to cover Windows, Android, iOS, Xbox and new Cortana devices. The Cortana Devices SDK will allow OEMs and ODMs to create a new generation of smart, personal devices. This could be seen on or off screens, in homes and on wheels.
For now, the technology is in preview phase only. There isn’t an exact release date, but we could expect a late spring or summer release in 2017.