Harman Kardon and Microsoft's Invoke smart speaker is coming too late to endanger Amazon


Not letting Amazon whisk all the attention away with the Echo Show, Harman Kardon formally announced the Invoke. This is a Microsoft Cortana-integrated smart speaker that's not going to hit the market until Fall at the earliest. Being a HK product, the Invoke has a predictably pleasant look with a metal chassis, pretty much ready to fit any modern room. In the brand's good name, Harmon is aiming for high quality sound as well. But we all know the acoustic properties of such a speaker are too constrained to deliver the kind of hi-fi audio that melts your soul.

The star of the show is supposed to be Cortana. Microsoft's familiar AI assistant will let you control music playback and connected smart home devices with voice commands. It's also good for handling Skype calls or answering queries by looking up your questions in search engines.

So far, nothing the Amazon Echo Show, which ships next month and has a full-color touch screen can't do, and possibly do better. Amazon already has the lead with a product that looks decidedly more technologically advanced and benefits from plenty of time spent fine-tuning Alexa, the AI assistant, right there among the very people that use it.

We aren't sure if the Harman brand and Cortana's charms will be enough to make a compelling alternative out of the Invoke, especially given its late release. And alternatives are severely needed. Amazon already has most of the smart speaker market for itself, because its competitors allowed it to.

While Amazon was busy innovating, Google and Harman/Microsoft merely kept parity with the original Echo speaker. Now, the retail giant is the first to bring a smart speaker with a screen, and the absence of rumors and leaks suggests no one in the industry will be ready with a matching product in the coming weeks. That is, unless Apple really homed in on its purported Siri speaker that's being primed for a June announcement. Let's hope Cupertino doesn't show another fancy-looking speaker with a voice, but rather something to give Amazon a nudge in the ribs. Healthy competition is good, while monopoly causes problems.


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16 Comments

1. meanestgenius

Posts: 21779; Member since: May 28, 2014

I've said this before, but Amazon really has no competition in this area. Competition is good, and it breeds choice, which is always good for the consumer. Here's to hoping that some company presents a challenge to Amazon in this field soon, but I personally don't see that happening for quite some time.

4. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2340; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

All it would take is a company like Microsoft or Google offering something for under $50. I bought an Echo Dot because it was like $40 during Black Friday. And it routinely goes on a sale like that every few months. Google Home was $130 when it was first introduced and is just now coming down to about $115. This Microsoft Invoke will probably cost around $200 or more when it is introduced. They need to offer a device for the less than $50 range if they want to get in on the home AI craze. Both companies make billions of dollars and Microsoft, interestingly enough, has a long history of taking a cut on revenue in order to boost market share growth. If Microsoft were to release that Invoke for $99 then it would be a game changer. They could take the loss for first couple of years, build up enough customers and developers alike and then start selling sequel versions for a more profitable price. Will they do that? No. Why? Because they seem to not want to take a risk like that.

9. meanestgenius

Posts: 21779; Member since: May 28, 2014

Personally, I don't see either company taking that risk, like you said. And I certainly don't see them taking away from Amazon's user base in the AI Speaker field too much, either. They will have to really come up with something extraordinary to outdo Amazon here.

10. sgodsell

Posts: 7219; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Dr. Phil hasn't been looking very much. But there is a Raspberry PI with Google Assistant that came with everything inside a magazine. The magazine is around $14 (magpie). Sure this Google Assistant is wrapped in Cardboard and has a speaker, button and light with the raspberry pi zero (W). As a matter of fact you can buy a Raspberry PI zero with Bluetooth and WiFi for just $10. Then add​ your own speaker and mic for around $5, a micro SD card with noobs and Google Assistant installed. Then supply a micro USB power supply, and away you go! Start talking, and you have an inexpensive Google Assistant for less than $20, and that is buying all the parts yourself separately. I don't think you can get much cheaper than this.

11. sgodsell

Posts: 7219; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

12. sgodsell

Posts: 7219; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Please if anyone can show me something cheaper than this. Then do not hesitate to post that information.

16. meanestgenius

Posts: 21779; Member since: May 28, 2014

People want simplicity, and something that works right out of the box. Amazon Alexa enabled devices provide that. And as the iPhone has shown, people are willing to pay for it. Now, Amazon Alexa enabled devices are far less inexpensive than Apple products, but the point is still the same. Why buy all of that stuff when you can get it all in one package? Only the geeks and nerds will go for that, and they do not make up the majority of the buying public.

2. Cat97

Posts: 1863; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Wow, no Harman "Karmon" this time ? I'm amazed the editors figured it out finally :)

3. SIGPRO

Posts: 2815; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

It is never too late, never underestimate your opponent!

5. robinakilt

Posts: 14; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

Remember when Microsoft was at the forefront of technology? Now they are constantly late to the party.

7. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Last time I checked, they're still at the forefront of Laptops and Desktops, and now Tablets even though they were "late"...only place they're lagging is Smartphones. As for these new standalone 24/7 spyware speakers, they're merely a subpart of a Windows 10 PC with Cortana always listening on the lockscreen ( https://goo.gl/fcqLIx ). Did I mention that PCs have screens?

14. SIGPRO

Posts: 2815; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

Late with what? They are killing with the Surface products! Forget about crappy ipad's, mac pro's, macbook's etc etc, they are done!

6. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1042; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

Next Up, HK Speaker with Bixby integration. Cortana AI would be much better suited for a virtual hologram Assistant

8. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

What exactly does an Amazon Echo with a screen offer over Cortana listening 24/7 on your Windows 10 PC?

13. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

I believe the thought is that people would want multiple speakers in various places around the home. Now I'd doubt that's the plan for these newer screened models, which I imagine would be only one unit in a high traffic area like a kitchen or family room. But for other rooms, a regular Echo or Dot would be used, and considering the prices for them vs a Windows 10 PC, then it makes more sense.

15. LovesCameras

Posts: 51; Member since: Dec 02, 2015

I'm not in a hurry to buy either. I dont't want to be a beta tester of half baked rushed products and still pay a premium for it.

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