E Microsoft Is Taking Aim At Amazon In The Voice Activated Personal Assistant Device Market

Amazon (AMZN) has a huge hit on its hands with its voice-activated smart speaker the Echo and its digital personal assistant Alexa. But that doesn’t mean it has cornered the market as competition starts to heat up. One player, in particular, is pulling out all the stops: Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and its Cortana voice-activated personal assistant.

Earlier this week Microsoft and Harman International, a unit of Samsung Electronics (SSNLF) announced the Invoke, a voice activated speaker that’s powered by Cortana, Microsoft’s competitor to Amazon’s Alexa. Just like Amazon’s Echo, the speaker can play music, manage calendars, check traffic, set reminders, read the latest news and do a host of other things all via voice commands. Harman and Microsoft are trying to stand out from what is becoming a crowded field by integrating Skype into the speaker so users can make calls. The Invoke is also able to control Internet-connected devices in the home to do things like turn on the lights or lower or raise the temperature in the home. When announcing the Invoke with Cortana, Harman pointed out that Cortana is already used by 145 million people across a slew of devices.  

Harman’s announcement did raise some eyebrows since it decided to partner with Microsoft and Cortana instead of its parent company Samsung Electronics, which recently announced Bixby, its own voice-activated personal assistant that is making its way into its Galaxy 8 new line of smartphones. Samsung was forced to delay the rollout of Bixby in the U.S. but that hasn’t stopped the electronics company from hyping its personal assistant, arguing when it announced Bixby that is better than the other ones on the market because it helps users use their phones more efficiently.

Microsoft isn’t stopping with the Invoke however. The Redmond, Washington software giant announced during its Build conference this week that HP (HP) and Intel (INTC) have committed to creating devices for Cortana. Microsoft wouldn’t say much only that it signed a partnership with HP to create products around Cortana and with Intel to provide a reference design for others to make Cortana powered devices. This comes on the heels of Microsoft saying late last year that it will enable Internet of Things (IOT) appliances such as refrigerators, toasters and thermostats to access Cortana, expanding the number of devices using Cortana to control them.  By teaming up with its old PC partners, particularly Intel, Microsoft has its best shot at becoming a viable player in the burgeoning market for voice-powered, Internet-connected devices. 

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Moon Kil Woong 4 years ago Contributor's comment

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