Today Harman Kardon released new details about its new smart speaker device powered by Microsoft Cortana. The speaker is named Invoke and looks very similar to the Amazon Echo. The new device also offers similar functionality to its rival. The Invoke speaker can play music, manage calendars and activities, set reminders, check traffic and read the news. It will also be able to control smart-home devices through voice commands. The device will be available in two colors, black and white and will ship this fall. The pricing for the Invoke has yet to be released, but considering it shares many similarities to the Amazon Echo, one would guess it would be priced similarly.
One Key Differentiator
However, one differentiating feature is Skype integration. It allows users to make calls to cellphones, landlines and other Skype-enabled devices. Right now, neither the Amazon Echo or Google Home offer this feature, although it has been reported that both are working on adding voice calling to their respective devices. This could be a way for the Invoke to gain traction in the smart speaker marketplace even though it is entering the field a year behind Google and almost three behind Amazon.
As Voicebot pointed out in March, many industry leaders believe smart speakers are missing that “killer app” that will turn these kinds of devices from a niche toy to a ubiquitous one for the home. Voice calling could be that app. Microsoft and Harman Kardon are launching with the feature already in place, in addition to providing the same features as the Echo and Home devices. This winter Cortana even reached out to several Amazon Alexa developers recruiting them to add their existing skills to the Cortana Skills Kit (CSK) to ensure a similar user experience to that of the competition. But with the Invoke not launching until the fall, Amazon and Google have plenty of time to provide a voice calling solution of their own. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Game on.