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Microsoft's Amazon Echo competitor will launch next year

A partnership with Harman Kardon could be the first of many Cortana speakers.
Aaron Souppouris, @AaronIsSocial
December 14, 2016
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Microsoft is partnering with the (soon-to-be Samsung-owned) audio company Harman Kardon to launch a speaker with its Cortana personal assistant built in. Described as "a voice-activated speaker," a short teaser video shows glimpses of a (rendered) cylindrical design not too dissimilar to Amazon's Echo. It also takes cues from Google Home, with a display atop fashioned after Cortana's familiar blue circle that shows when the assistant is thinking.

Unfortunately, the teaser video is all we have to go on, and that only tells us the device is "coming in 2017." It seems a pretty safe bet that it won't be the only speaker with Cortana built in, though. Microsoft is making a big push into the "internet of things" with the Cortana Devices SDK, hoping to partner with many manufacturers to bring the assistant to various devices and appliances.

In a blog post announcing the SDK, Microsoft describes Harman Kardon as "one early device partner," noting that the speaker company will have "more news to share next year about their plans." Still, if you were holding out for a Microsoft version of the Echo or Home, this looks to be the closest you'll get to it for some time. We could still see a Surface- or Microsoft-branded speaker at some point, of course, but for now, Microsoft seems content to rely solely on partners to take on Amazon and Google.

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