Amazon may have been first out of the gate with the voice-activated home speaker -- and indeed, sister site MyITForum has a whole channel dedicated to Alexa tips and tricks already -- but Microsoft's entry into the product category could be a game changer.
The Harman Kardon Invoke™ Intelligent Speaker will come with Cortana, Microsoft's smart assistant. This expands Cortana's range from a mobile device and/or a computer desktop to a speaker anywhere in the house. And although conventional wisdom gives Amazon Alexa the first-to-market advantage in this space, the Invoke speaker will have the advantage of Microsoft-related integration: this speaker can augment and extend the personal computing sphere of a Windows 10 user and it also boasts Skype calling abilities.
When we tested the smart assistant against its nearest rivals (Apple's Siri and Google Assistant), Cortana shone at information retrieval and applying user's details -- from travel plans to playlists -- when asked. Imagine how handy this will be when you're in the middle of a family conversation and a must-do chore comes up, or you're having dinner and you remember something you want to add to your work calendar for the next day, or you want to make a Skype call but your computer's in another room.
Microsoft's Build Conference is this week -- Rich Hay will be reporting live all week -- and we can expect a lot of talk about the Cortana Skills Kit this week as Microsoft pushes to get Cortana on more third-party devices.