Will Skype be the killer app for Microsoft’s aspiring Amazon Echo killer?
Harman International, the Samsung subsidiary, this morning released new details about its upcoming Harman Kardon smart speaker, to be powered by Microsoft’s Cortana voice-enabled assistant.
Features include the ability to use Skype to make calls to mobile phones, landlines and other devices running the Microsoft-owned communications platform. It will be the first device of its kind to offer Skype integration, according to the companies — the latest example of Microsoft better leveraging its varied assets in new products.
The device, to be called the Harman Kardon Invoke, was first teased last December, without many details at the time. This morning, Harman said the Invoke will be available in the U.S. in the fall, in white or black, with seven microphones for voice recognition and a 360-degree speaker capable of filling a large room with music.
Cortana began on Windows Phone before expanding to Windows 10 and Xbox One, and the voice-enabled assistant is now starting to expand to third-party devices through the Cortana Device SDK. Microsoft will also be talking up the Cortana Skills Kit at its Build conference in Seattle this week, aiming to get more-third-party developers extending the capabilities of Cortana-powered devices, as reported by Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet.
The various moves position Microsoft to compete more directly with Amazon and Google in the smart speaker market, and the inclusion of Skype calling could give Microsoft an important point of differentiation. But Amazon has a clear lead, with a new report estimating that more than 10 million Alexa-powered devices have been sold.