We have been hearing for nearly a year that Harman Kardon will bring out a high-end smart speaker powered by Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant. The device, Harman Kardon Invoke, still is not shipping. We have only seen some early demo products at Microsoft’s annual developer conference in May. However, we learned yesterday that Harman has two new speakers powered by Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa respectively.
Google Assistant on JBL
Harman announced at the consumer electronics IFA trade show yesterday in Berlin that its new JBL Link series wireless speakers are now voice activated and powered by Google Assistant.
JBL LINK is a hands free voice-activated speaker series with the Google Assistant built-in.
This is good news for Google’s ambitions to become popular with device manufacturers. It also follows the announcement yesterday that Sony will incorporate Google Assistant into an upcoming device. Price points will range from about $200-$300 for the different models.
Alexa Gets Some Harman Kardon Love Too
Not to be outdone, Alexa is also getting a home in the Harman Kardon product line. The Allure is a $250 high-end speaker with Alexa inside.
Implications for Microsoft, Apple and Samsung
There are multiple implications of these announcements.
- Google is getting some traction with device OEMs for Assistant. This is a very different situation than CES earlier this year, when only Amazon Alexa had a seat at the table.
- Microsoft’s big device OEM partner, Harman Kardon, is not going to go all-in on the Invoke or Cortana voice assistant. Instead, the company will have a broad product line and support multiple voice assistants through various devices. This development makes the agreement with Amazon to connect Cortana and Alexa all the more important to ensure Cortana has points of access for consumers.
- Apple was the first to announce a high-end, premium smart speaker during its WWDC annual conference this year. However, we can see that audiophiles will have many options for smart speakers with high-quality sound this holiday season. Apple will likely sell out for its HomePods due to supply shortages and its unwavering fan base, but competition will be stiff.
- Samsung has its own voice assistant called Bixby. It is also the parent company of Harman Kardon. There will be Harman products with Alexa, Assistant and Cortana this fall, but none that include Bixby. Samsung’s Bixby smart speaker project is reportedly delayed and may be facing similar challenges to the Invoke launch. This reinforces the tough challenge Samsung will have in the smart speaker segment despite its manufacturing assets in the space.