Microsoft tight-lipped about own-branded Cortana smart speaker

Microsoft and Harman Kardon are launching the first ever Cortana-powered smart speaker this Sunday. It has taken Cortana years to come to a smart speaker, and Microsoft expects more Cortana-powered devices to hit the market in the near-future.

While some may prefer their Cortana speaker directly from Microsoft, the Redmond-based software giant isn’t saying much about a first-party Cortana-powered smart speaker. “We have nothing to share on first-party devices at this time,” a Microsoft spokesperson told MSPoweruser. The company, instead, wants its OEM partners to build smart speakers and other devices using the Cortana Devices SDK.

“The Cortana Devices SDK reflects our strategy that Cortana needs to be available across all kinds of devices to really deliver on the promise of a personal assistant for everyone. The Devices SDK will allow OEMs and ODMs to make smart devices with Cortana that are highly personalized and helpful,” the spokesperson said.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft is relying on its OEM partners to build devices powered by the company’s software. Microsoft has relied on OEMs to build Windows Phone devices in the past, and it’s also letting its OEM partners build Windows Mixed Reality headsets. While the decision didn’t go too well with Windows Phone, the company’s OEM partners delivered a decent range of headsets for Windows Mixed Reality earlier this week.

Microsoft’s strategy here, however, is quite different from some of other tech giants. Amazon, one of the first firms to enter the smart speaker market, now has an ever-growing collection of smart devices powered by its virtual assistant Alexa, despite also having a huge collection of third-party devices powered by Alexa, too. Google also launched the Google Home Mini earlier this week, and it’s set to launch a $399 smart speaker with premium sound quality called the Home Max later this year — but like Amazon, it is also letting other OEMs add Google Assitant to their devices. Apple isn’t too far behind, either — the company is launching its own smart speaker powered by Siri later this year for $350, but the hardware giant won’t be allowing third parties to make hardware powered by Siri.

Most of these tech giants are already ahead in the game while Microsoft is only just getting started with the Harman Kardon Invoke. Microsoft is still, however, expecting the Invoke to accelerate Cortana’s “strong” momentum, but it is interesting that — unlike its Surface range — it is not building its own flagship hardware experience for Cortana.

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