We have truly entered the age of the digital assistant. When Apple first introduced Siri to our iPhones back in 2011 it seemed like a novelty without much purpose. Now digital assistants are establishing themselves as a solid part of everyday life, not only on our mobile devices but in our homes too.
Both the Amazon Echo and the Google Home have set themselves up as must-have accessories for early adopters of smart speaker home technology. With two years having passed since the first Echo getting released, there have been rumors about Microsoft joining the fray, and now we’re starting to see some solid info about the speaker from hi-fi speaker manufacturer Harman Kardon that’ll house Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana in your home.
Here you will find all the information we have about Harman Kardon’s Cortana-powered speaker, the Invoke.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A smart speaker powered by Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana, made by Harman Kardon
- When is it out? Fall 2017
- What will it cost? Currently unclear, but we are expecting a premium price tag
Invoke release date
According to the official Harman Kardon website, the Invoke is: “Coming Fall 2017” although when you're going to actually be able to have one in your house is currently unclear.
Microsoft holds an annual event in October, which could be when we will see the official launch of the Invoke, although currently the speaker's development looks like its being spearheaded by Harman Kardon and just happens to have Cortana on board, so the launch could happen independently of Microsoft.
We were originally hoping to see a Cortana powered speaker at tech conference CES 2017, and while we didn’t, we did see Cortana integration for both BMW and Nissan cars. Adding further credence to the idea that Microsoft is leaving the development of its Cortana speakers is the announcement and HP is working on its own speaker.
With a fall release, there is the possibility that it will come out in time for Black Friday. Obviously there's no guarantee that would mean it would be discounted but given the likelihood of Amazon's Echo and Dot going on sale, it would be a shrewd move.
I was told that Microsoft will show off and detail Cortana on speakers (and possibly the Harman Kardon Invoke) at Build 2017 next month.April 26, 2017
While information is fairly thin on the ground about the capabilities of the speaker, it is safe to assume that it will follow in the same vein as the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. It will certainly be able to play music, answer questions and control your smart home products.
In terms of playing music, we know from a recently discovered device setup app that the Invoke (and any Cortana-powered speaker) should have the ability to select which music app is the source for your music, meaning you can play music from Spotify, Pandora, and others.
This feature was revealed when Microsoft released a Device Setup app in April, leading us to think that a Cortana-powered speaker was imminent.
Smart home product integration is still slightly untested ground, so it will be interesting to see which products play nicely with this first generation device.
What looks like it will really set Invoke apart is its ability to make phone calls, a feature that is still missing from all the current competitors on the market. This will technically take the form of a Skype voice call, but using an app for calls looks like it may be the way voice calling is going, with hinting that Apple will be replacing voice calls with Facetime Audio on iOS 11.
The Invoke looks more than a little like the Amazon Echo, although when creating a speaker with 360 degree sound it's probably inevitable that you’re going to create something fairly cylindrical. It's crafted out of metal, and looks like it’s going to come in either a chrome or black finish.
A smart move?
Harman Kardon has a reputation for high quality speakers so one of the things we can be certain of is that the Invoke will sound good. What’s uncertain is the price tag. We're assuming that with its premium looks and the likelihood of premium guts, it will almost certainly come at a premium price.
With the Apple HomePod scheduled for a December release, Samsung working on the Bixby-powered Vega, and Amazon both releasing the Echo Show and opening up its development tool-kit so that anyone can make a speaker with their mic set-up, the market is likely to get very crowded in the next few years.
Microsoft needs to find a unique selling point for its smart speaker and it will be interesting to see if the Invoke is positioned as the ‘premium’ option.
- Want to check out the competition? Here's everything we know so far about the Apple HomePod.