That’s not a moment too soon. Microsoft msft is playing catchup to Amazon’s two-year-old Echo, which as of last month has sold an estimated 15 million units, and Google Home, a distant second in sales. Invoke gets its voice recognition smarts from Microsoft Cortana.
With Cortana is also embedded in its Windows 10 operating system, Microsoft is banking that integration with its Office 365 applications will make Invoke attractive for the many people who use Office at work. They can use it for example, check their Outlook calendars, and create reminders without pulling out their PCs or phones. Cortana can also run on Apple aapl iPhones and Android devices, although it is unclear how much traction it has had beyond the Microsoft ecosystem.
Apple has said its HomePod device, which combines high-quality audio with voice commands, is expected to debut in December.
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These smart connected speakers, also known as virtual personal assistants, are part of a white-hot market for connected home devices. Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Apple all want consumers to use their respective technology to control connected gadgets, from smart lights and thermostats to audio-video gear. And they all gather data about user behavior and preferences from interactions with the devices, which helps them fine tune their own AI technologies. The potential misuse or sharing of that data is something that worries privacy advocates.
Note: (October 20, 2017 10:35 a.m. EDT) this story was updated with information on other Microsoft hardware partners.