Amazon’s Echo isn’t the only thing shaking up the voice-enabled tech world

Say hello to Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant.

Microsoft has partnered with Harmon Kardon to build its very own smart speaker.

Why Now?

A report from Customer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that in its first year of Echo sales, Amazon sold 3 million Echo devices. Amazon took a leap in creating a dedicated personal assistant from the ground up. It took longer than expected for the general public to realize what an amazing thing a smart speaker is. Now that consumers are becoming more tech savvy, tech giants have good reason to leap into this new and exciting market. Google just recently launched their Google Home device with mixed reviews, and it is set to mature over time thanks to Google’s active open source community.

Microsoft Enters the Ring

Cortana has been a part of Windows 10 since April 2014, but few have used it for the desktop environment. The Cortana platform needs more functionality for it to be compelling to use. Right from the start, we see the brand “Harmon Kardon” on the side of the speaker. The premium audio will appeal to music fans who want a simple, quality solution for easy listening. The new smart speaker will function similarly to Amazon’s Echo and Google Home’s far-field microphone in that it is going to be listening at all times. What makes Microsoft’s implementation quite appealing is that Cortana has seen nice improvements in the last two years, making this new device somewhat mature. The new speaker also has a small display on the top. Microsoft has yet to reveal the screen’s functionality.

What Makes Microsoft’s unique?

Microsoft plans on adding Cortana to several devices other than Windows devices including thermostats, refrigerators, and even toasters. On top of that, they plan on incorporating many Internet of Things (IoT) devices into the Cortana instruction set. Microsoft is encouraging device manufacturers to include a screen in everyday devices and appliances so that consumers can bring the Cortana assistant everywhere they go. Presently, the Amazon Echo and Google Home lack a physical display, so a major drawback with these products is that interactions are only voice-based. However, with a screen, information can be programmed to display all the time, or even periodically, and dynamically changing.

2017 will be an exciting year for smart devices!

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