The Microsoft Cortana-enabled Harman Kardon Invoke is on sale today for 50% off, but is anyone going to buy it? And, is the steep discount designed to drive foot traffic to Best Buy or simply get rid of the inventory? The Cortana-enabled Invoke was first announced in December of 2016, but didn’t debut until October 2017. That’s a pretty long pre-announcement period. It’s not clear the long wait was worth it.
Cortana boasts nearly 150 million monthly users, but almost all of those are using windows on laptop or desktop PCs. And, many of those are only using Cortana for forced functions such as device setup. Cortana today has only one smart speaker option and a meager 224 skills from third party developers. That number is up 29% in the past two months, but even among those skills, very few are from high profile media companies or brands. Cortana is in reality a very good voice assistant. The speech recognition and natural language understanding (NLU) are excellent. It has a nice iOS app. However, it is not all that accessible outside of the Windows ecosystem and has limited functionality due to a lack of third-party developer support today.
If you are looking to try out Cortana on a smart speaker, today might be your best bet. It is being offered by Best Buy for only $99.99. That is a little more than you will pay right now for Amazon Echo or Google Home, but the device claims to have superior sound quality and you get Skype integration.
The Invoke Has Not Flown Off the Shelves
I stopped by a Best Buy the day after the Invoke launch in October and there were several smart speakers on display, but not the Invoke. The JBL smart speaker (N.B. also from Harman Kardon) with Google Assistant was there. The Sony LF-S50G was there. When I asked a salesperson about the Invoke, he didn’t immediately recognize what I was asking about and then said he would check in the back. He did produce a device, but returned it to the back after I indicated I would not be purchasing it that day. If the device is not on the shelf, only the most motivated buyers will ask about it. You certainly will not capture any casual buyers. If it was selling well right after launch, every salesperson would know about the product. On that same day there was a display with capacity for about 100 Amazon Echo Dots. There were only about a dozen remaining.
It may be that the Black Friday sale price from Best Buy is designed to offload Invoke inventory more than drive foot traffic as many Amazon Echo and Google Home Mini deals are expected to do. However, if you have interest in Microsoft’s first foray into the smart speaker market, today would be a good day to make your Invoke purchase.