What happened to Cortana?

Cortana…thinking of the Microsoft A.I system makes something stir in your brain, doesn’t it?
When you think of home automation, your mind naturally jumps first to Amazon Alexa, then Google Assistant as the market leaders, but whatever happened to the Microsoft alternative? Of course, if you’re a windows user, you’ll undoubtedly have Cortana on hand on your PC, but she’s hardly a leading contender in the home automation market, especially in Australia as we still can’t buy the Harmon Kardon speaker (with Cortana) over here. This narrow market is one of Microsoft’s main problems, as they’re heavily reliant on PC users for their Cortana audience in markets other than the US. But for PC users, it also speaks volumes that one of the top relevant searches on google is: how can I turn Cortana off?

Yet, Microsoft is a household name, which means potential audiences have trust in them. They’re also making gains with software updates, adding IFTTT (if this then that) capability only slightly later than Google and Amazon, and a recent update allows Cortana to integrate with outlook, meaning we can listen to and respond to our emails by speaking. A lot of people were also excited about Microsoft working with Amazon to integrate their respective devices, yet this has been pushed back way past the original date of the end of 2017. It seems like Cortana still has some major gains to make, especially as it’s not even an option for us in Australia yet, before it can be anything more than an underdog against Amazon and Google. Although, perhaps with new boss Javier Soltero and the opening of the Cortana Intelligence Institute, Microsoft are ready to make up for lost time?

Is Microsoft Cortana Competition to Google and Amazon

Microsoft has shown that voice assistant Cortana, is powerful enough to deal with a wide range of ‘Smart Technology’ from speakers and toasters, to fridges and Cars at the Build 2017 developer conference, announcing the platforms has developed a partnership with both BMW and Nissan. However so far there has only been one dedicated Cortana speaker, (the Harmon Kardon). While competitor assistants Alexa and Google Assistant continue to be a feature in more and more devices, Cortana seems to be falling behind. Microsoft is promising that more will come in time.

Microsoft has announced new partnerships with Ecobee, Honeywell, IFTTT, Lifx, and TP-Link, which is a big step forward for consumers wants and needs.  Now we need to see more variety in the choice of hardware to encourage  the longevity of the assistant.

Cortana Plays Friendly With Gmail.

Those of you that are Window 10 + Android users, you can rejoice. Home Automation with Cortana just became a little bit easier. Windows has just added Google Calendar and Gmail functionality so you can use the windows Voice Assistant to check your calendar, emails, pull up reminders and contacts. Which is great news to anyone into home automation without having a Smart Speaker in the home. all you need now is a windows PC. With windows recently adding connected home features to Cortana for your smart devices.

To make use of your Windows Cortana accessing your google account just go to the Cortana bar, enter Notebook, then Connected Services. (shown above) to set up your Cortana to Google access.

Harmon Kardon & Microsoft Cortana

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This week Harman Kardon and Microsoft released the Harman Kardon Invoke with Cortana  by Microsoft for the exy price of $199.95 USD. The only country it was released in was the United States and with the sound powered by Harman Kardon, and that price tag, it’s easy to see the market they hope to reach. For the moment, powerful sounding speakers are few and far between, with the best on the market (personally considered) being the Google Home Max.
So, considering price range and Sound target this is what we would consider comparing with before deciding to buy.
The highlighted features of the invoke are –
Voice-activated speaker with premium sound and Cortana’s intelligence;
Powerful 360° sound delivered from 3 woofers, 3 tweeters, and 2 passive radiators;
Play your favourite music with the sound of your voice;
Get answers to questions;
Manage your schedule;
Set and receive reminders;
Make and receive hands-free calls with Skype;
Voice-control your smart home devices.
This leaves us with yet another companywith exciting software yet to come to the Australian Market.

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Harmon Kardon & Samsung

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To say there are a few smart speakers on the market at the moment is a huge understatement. A.I. and smart home companies are all in a race to beat competitors to market for the next big ‘it’ hardware. Amazon Alexa was the first to bring voice assistant and home controls to the market (but over two years later is yet to release in Australia) and Google Home, which is coming next (first to reach the Australian market).  Apple and Samsung are the next big tech companies to release their voice assistants in a speaker. Apple publicly announced the Smart speaker, Homepod, powered by voice assistant Siri, which is due to hit Australia in time for Christmas.

However, details for the South Korean company Samsung have been scarce so far, with many failed attempts to kick-start Voice Assistant Bixby. Due to a few reasons, the biggest being the lack of English recognition and support for the assistant features, and the next is assumed to an already flooded market with a strong fan base for the four other major Smart Assistants.  So far Samsung’s mobile division chief, DJ Koh has kept tightly lipped about any future hardware products coming out the Company, in September saying “Maybe soon we will announce it. I am already working on it” in regards to a smart assist speaker. With no reliable announcement official as of yet, we are left watching as the Samsung team try to iron out any faults with the mobile assistant Bixby. We are left to assume that Koh may have been hinting towards Child Company Harman, which was recently acquired by Samsung back in March of this year, as part of the company’s biggest acquisition ever, which included and not limited to Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon, and Mark Levinson.

It was shortly after this that Harman made the rather odd announcement of their smart assistant home speaker design and release date, none other than Microsoft Cortana would power that. As far as Harman Kardon is concerned this is an excellent move as Cortana has much more successful speech recognition and has already started to implement home automation controls on the PC and Xbox. For now, parent company Samsung, this might be a sign of defeat, or it may be a brilliant new partnership. Either is unclear right now.  What we do know now, is that the Harman Kardon came out this week, and it appears to be a powerful speaker. The public will decide what they think of Cortana as a Home Automation Assistant.

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