Microsoft Recruits Harman Kardon For Cortana Infused Amazon Echo And Google Home Competitor

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First there was Amazon Echo, then came along Google Home. Now it looks as though Microsoft is looking to get in on the digital AI assistant/speaker movement with the help of Harman Kardon — a brand that is about to be tucked under Samsung’s wing with the acquisition of Harman.

Although the device doesn’t have an official name at this point, it would be the first third-party device to integrate Cortana AI with speaker hardware. Although we can’t see the full product, it looks similar in design to the Amazon Echo with a towering cylindrical shape. Where it differs, however, is with what appears to be some sort of LCD display at the top which responds by lighting up and creates the familiar blue Cortana ring when it’s listening.

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Not much else can be gleaned from Microsoft’s 30-second teaser other than the fact that the device will ship sometime in 2017.

News of the new Harman Kardon speaker comes at the same time that Microsoft announced the Cortana Skills Kit and Cortana Devices SDK. Microsoft says that it currently has 145 million active Cortana users and the Cortana Skills Kit will allow “developers to reach a growing audience” across a variety of platforms including Windows, Android, iOS and Xbox One. Developers will even be able to repurpose their Alexa Skills for use with Cortana-backed devices.

“It will connect users to skills when users ask, and proactively present skills to users in the appropriate context,” explains Microsoft. “And it will help developers personalize their experiences by leveraging Cortana’s understanding of users’ preferences and context, based on user permissions.”

The Cortana Devices SDK will allow OEMs to build devices like the Harman Kardon speaker, and potentially Cortana-equipped appliances and IoT devices using the Windows 10 IoT Core edition.