Microsoft's first Cortana speaker is coming from Harman Kardon in 2017

Microsoft is taking on Amazon Echo's smart home dominance
Cortana powered speaker arriving in 2017

Build a voice controlled smart speaker these days and it's one thing: an Amazon Echo rival. And with Microsoft opening up Cortana to third party hardware companies, the first device - a Harman Kardon speaker - and the comparison is seriously easy to make.

The speaker doesn't seem to have a name yet but it's due to arrive in 2017. It's voice controlled with Microsoft's AI assistant Cortana taking the place of Amazon's Alexa in the setup. In the 30 second teaser, the speaker itself looks a lot like the Echo - what looks like a matte black cylinder with a blue glowing light.

Read this: A ten step guide to smart home etiquette

The only further detail is that the Harman speaker will work with third party services and that we should expect more Cortana powered gadgets, appliances and connected cars via the Cortana SDK.

Developers will be able to create Cortana 'Skills' - we told you it sounded familiar - so that the speaker can control things like Spotify and Hue light bulbs.

Microsoft is even making it easy for devs to port over Amazon Skills to Cortana via its Bot Framework. The Skills Kit is launching in February 2017, the speaker doesn't have a firm release date yet.

The latest player in the voice controlled smart home is the Google Home speaker which reviewed well when we tested it, thanks in part to Google's years refining Voice. What's also interesting is that Harman is now owned by Samsung which has its own SmartThings platform.

As for Amazon, it has already announced partnerships with the likes of Hyundai's in-car apps and we're expecting an Amazon Echo 2 next year, complete with a touchscreen. Before this Cortana announcement, the rumours had indicated Microsoft would bring PCs into the smart home equation with a Home Hub interface. Even with this announcement, this might still be in the works.

Who would you rather chat to? Alexa, Cortana or Google Voice?


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