Harman Kardon teases the Invoke speaker, a Cortana-powered Echo competitor

Is a fall ship date too late for the first Cortana-powered home assistant, though?

Harman Kardon’s Invoke speaker, the Microsoft Cortana-powered answer to the Google Home and Amazon Echo, will ship this fall according to a preview page with the first official images of the tabletop device.

Though pricing hasn’t yet been revealed, Harman Kardon said that the Invoke will perform three major tasks: make and receive calls with Skype, control popular music services like Microsoft Groove, and “get things done” with Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant.

Microsoft said it would team up last year with Harman Kardon as part of a new Internet of Things initiative powered by Cortana. Though the initial partnership was expected inside connected cars, it appears both companies will leap into homes first. Harman was showing off the new Invoke on a preview page on its website that's since be unpublished, inviting potential buyers to sign up. Thurrott.com first noted the page earlier.

Why this matters: Though Microsoft was once neck and neck with Siri and Gogle in developing digital assistants, recent moves by Amazon and Google to put them into the home have left Microsoft appearing to lag behind. Even now, the Invoke will ship in the fall, many months after both rivals. While we shouldn’t write off the Invoke yet, Microsoft needs to tell us how it’s just a single piece of a Cortana-powered ecosystem that presumably spans the PC to your home to maybe your car.

harman kardon invoke cortana speaker 1 Harman / Kardon

Harman/Kardon certainly implies that the Invoke will be a feature of your living room, probably emphasizing audio quality.

Learning new Cortana skills

Microsoft has been testing Cortana’s interaction with the new speaker with a limited subset of Windows Insiders for a few weeks, according to MSPoweruser, including both the Windows 10 version of Cortana as well as the Android app.

The new Devices submenu within Cortana advertises how to set up the new Invoke speaker, connecting it to popular music apps including Microsoft Groove, iHeartRadio, Pandora, TuneIn, and Spotify. The Harman Kardon page implies that it will be able to serve as a speaker for audio-only Skype calls, and answer the standard gamut of Cortana queries, set reminders, and more.

That Microsoft is apparently finalizing its IoT plans right before its hosts its Build developer conference this week is telling, as it implies that Microsoft will have much more to say about the Cortana-powered devices. These “Cortana skills” connect services, bots, Universal Windows apps, Android apps, and websites with Cortana, according to the Cortana Skills Kit page that is currently in public preview.

“Excellent skills take advantage of Cortana’s contextual knowledge of the user to do something useful and clever for them,” the page states. Once invoked, certain skills can manipulate Cortana to begin a conversation between it and the user, it adds.

Microsoft also plans to host a session on “Cortana advanced language and voice skill design” on Thursday, May 11, according to a schedule of events at Build. Is there a Cortana-powered ecosystem in our future? Let’s hope so.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags cortanaMicrosoftGoogle Home

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?