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A few days ago Microsoft launched the first-ever Cortana-powered smart speaker. The company teamed up with Harman Kardon to build the Invoke, a Cortana-powered smart speaker that went on sale this Sunday for $199.
The device does all the basics and has some unique features, such as being able to make voice calls over the Skype network.
It is however at an obvious disadvantage when it comes to extensibility, with only 67 3rd party Cortana Skills available at launch, versus 17,650 Alexa Skills and 468 for the Google Assistant.
Microsoft appears to be aware of the issue, and soon after the launch of the device has approved more than 100 new Cortana Skills, taking the number from 67 to 174.
Voicebot.ai, who keeps track of voice assistants, reports the additions are also high quality, including new skills by Motley Fool for example.
The interest cannot be attributed to the Harman Kardon Invoke alone of course. Microsoft says that Cortana now has 148 million monthly active users and is available on over 500 million Windows 10 PCs.
Voicebot notes that one of the reasons for the sudden growth is that Microsoft made if very easy to port skills from Alexa to Cortana, with the skills having nearly identical syntax. This could mean for example that Microsoft could actually surpass Google’s less than 500 skills by drawing from Amazon’s 17,650 without too much effort by developers.
Of course, engagement by actual users would be the real achievement – something we do not think Microsoft has adequately demonstrated yet.