A week ago we reported on a rumour that Microsoft was working on a “Home hub project aimed to build a smart kitchen based on the Microsoft’s Cortana and Azure Cloud.”
We however know Microsoft does not really want to be in the hardware business, and it seemed unlikely that the project will result in anything ever being released.
What Microsoft does however love to do is create a platform for OEMs to iterate on, most recently seen with their Windows Holographic work, where companies like Dell, HP and Asus are set to release $299 VR headsets next year.
Now we have a tasty rumour related to the Home Hub venture, with our sources telling us that Harman International, who own the Harman Kardon brand, was working with Microsoft on a device to challenge the Amazon Echo speaker.
Harman of course is no stranger to speakers, including smart ones that can be used for internet streaming, so it is likely they do have the hardware chops to pull this off.
In addition they are already close Internet Of Things partners with Microsoft, for example winning the 2015 Microsoft Partner of the Year for Intelligent Systems & Services award. According to a LinkedIn post there is a “Harman team within the Microsoft Surface Group” though this may be released to Harman’s meeting room management work integrated in the Surface Hub.
It is also of note that Harman is already working on a similar product with Baidu with a Baidu spokesman saying:
“Baidu A.I. technologies that will be incorporated into Harman Kardon include automatic speech recognition (ASR) in English and Mandarin, on-device wake word, natural language understanding (NLU) and processing (NLP), text-to-speech (TSS), voiceprint, a recommendation system, and a dialog system.”
Unfortunately a search of the FCC and Bluetooth SIG records has not yet suggested a likely candidate for such a device, meaning at this point the story is lacking some solid proof. Most of the parts are however in place, suggesting to us it may not be long before we see Microsoft’s own version of the Amazon Echo hit the market, likely from a number of OEMs.