With Cortana's Invoke speaker finally on the way, Amazon is dangerously close to lapping the field

It was about three or four years ago when my wife and I decided to finally get rid of our landline. We weren't really using it anymore — it was mostly an emergency backup, and a great way for solicitors to bug us. (That it occasionally made phantom 911 calls in the middle of the night was another impetus.)

This presented a problem, though. Our kids ride the bus home, and family members pick them up there. But what happens if for some reason nobody shows? The kids need a way to call their parents.

I had a brief flirtation with Google Hangouts for this. But it was clunky at best, and now is a nonstarter, since Hangouts is dying. And so this is how our eldest daughter got "her" first phone way earlier than I would have liked.

This is also why I'm ridiculously excited about Amazon's recent announcements. Which naturally, have implications for Microsoft's Skype platform, and any efforts to bring Cortana to the living room.

The window of opportunity for Microsoft's own "Invoke" speaker — powered by Cortana and sourced by audio giant Harman/Kardon — is potentially already shrinking.

Is it already too late for Cortana to take on Alexa?

Finally announced at the 2017 Build conference in Seattle, it may well be the best-sounding smart speaker we've seen. But details are still sparse. Will it compete with the price of the full-size Echo or Google Home, both of which come in under $150? And we're probably still at least four months away from release (I'd say that's on the early side, actually) before we even get a chance to buy Invoke.

This is what Microsoft and Harman/Kardon will have to compete with, Amazon's Echo, and the brand new Echo Show.

Preorder Echo Show (opens in new tab)

But first ... a word on your contacts


When you first set up Alexa calling you have to give the app access to your contacts. Don't do that without some hesitation. You're giving Amazon the ability to see every person in your contact list. Same goes for anyone who has you in their contact list.

That in and of itself isn't evil, but it's poor implementation. I have at least one person in my Alexa contacts now who I had to look up. They'd emailed me for an Android Central thing back in 2012. And now I have their phone number and the ability to call their Amazon devices wherever they may be? That's ridiculous, and something Microsoft could pounce on in criticism.

Amazon must (and I'm sure will) add granular controls as to who is allowed to contact you through Alexa calling. And it needs to do it ASAP.

Alexa calling

Alexa calling changes everything

If you have young kids or aging parents, Alexa calling and an Echo Dot is a no-brainer.

What I really needed was a way for my kids to be able to call their parents without needing a phone. The new calling (and messaging) feature in the Alexa app makes this a reality.

Alexa messaging

Setup was super simple. You'll need the Alexa app, (which, of course, isn't available on Microsoft's platforms, and that's not likely to change either. If you do have a compatible device, you'll need to give it access to your contacts. Once you do that it'll match the peeps in your phone with the peeps who own an Echo. (There's a pitfall here, but we'll get to that in a second.)

And that's it. Once that's done you can call anyone in your Alexa contacts. And when you do so it'll ring their mobile devices and any Echo devices. If you don't want to have a live call, you can just leave a voice message, or send a basic text message through the Alexa app.

Don't mistake these for regular phone calls and SMS messages — they're not. But that matters less and less these days. So long as the meaning gets through, who cares what the mechanism is?

And my kids aren't the only ones who are going to take advantage of this. My grandparents are 90 and still ridiculously awesome. (One's on an iPhone, and the other on Android. Along the same lines as my wife and I, now that I think about it.) But smartphones at 90 aren't necessarily as easy as smartphones at 40. Simpler is better, especially if an emergency happens. And is there really anything more simple than a $50 Echo Dot that can call me in mere seconds?

For young kids and aging relatives, this is a game-changer.

Amazon Echo Show

Echo Show — we'll see ... and it will, too

The other major announcement from Amazon was Echo Show — an Echo with a touchscreen and a camera. That's a big deal, too, for a few reasons.

All this connected stuff at home is great. But we've yet to see a proper visual hub that could finally tie it all together. Sure, there are DIY smart mirrors, and Apple TV and Android TV have the potential to serve as display hubs. But none of that has really happened yet.

A home hub display and cross-platform video calls will be a BIG deal for a lot of people.

And none of them has the Skills that Alexa has. That is, Alexa is the endpoint for thousands and thousands of APIs for so many services. A visual hub makes so much sense here.

It's also a big deal for video calls. While Apple's FaceTime has always been excellent for this, it's limited to someone having an Apple device nearby. Same for any other video chat service. Mobile devices are, by definition, mobile. But video calls on a home hub mean it's always there, and always available, for everyone.

I'm less bullish on the "Drop-in" calls — wherein someone — after you've granted them access — can literally drop in on you with a video call, basically saving them the trouble of accepting the call themselves. (They'll still have the option to reject it, though.) But I'll just have to wait and see how well that actually works.

And Echo Show will do more traditional things like watch videos and play music and order things from Amazon. And surely that's just the beginning.

While having a camera in the living room isn't a novelty anymore, I get that folks will still be hesitant to let Amazon (or any other company traditionally outside of the security space) have a look at what's going on so easily. But I also think the ease of communication will trump that fear.

An imperfect, huge head start

Messaging through Amazon Alexa is a big deal. But it's far from perfect and definitely has room to improve. A few thoughts off the top of my head:

  • Again, the contacts thing is ridiculous. That should never have happened.
  • So technically my kids are calling my through my own account, but whatever. It just works.
  • But having more than one person in the home is a little clunky, even with the Amazon Household stuff (opens in new tab). You have to tell Alexa to change accounts. Google has that beat with voice recognition for multiple accounts on Google Home.
  • (That also means anyone who has access to an Echo device can listen to your messages. So keep things SFW, folks. Or not.)
  • Know what else I want? Some sort of web or (even better) native computer support for when I'm sitting here working.
  • The Alexa app is still not great, if you're looking to actually use it as a messaging app. In fact, it's bad for that.
  • And Amazon needs to give more assurances that your messages are secure.

The simple fact of the matter, though, is this: While Apple beat everyone to the mobile assistant game with Siri, and Google Assistant is very good and growing all the time, neither has reach ubiquitous status, leaving Amazon to fill in the large gaps left by anything that's not traditionally mobile.

The messaging space is more competitive than ever.

Google Home has helped with that, but there's no denying Echo has a huge lead. Microsoft's Invoke definitely looks promising. But so many questions remain, especially whether it has any chance at being more than a niche product for the hardcore fans. And Microsoft (like everyone else) was already far behind. Not seeing Harmon/Kardon's speaker until the fall doesn't help matters, and anything similar from Apple is still in the rumor status. Microsoft has struggled to capitalize with Cortana and Skype voice-activated calling on home PCs and even Xbox, thus far, too. The messaging space is more competitive than ever, and Amazon's product line-up is breaking new ground while Microsoft is still attempting to modernize Skype.

Will Echo Show extend Amazon's head start? There's almost no way it can't at this point.

For now, it's still Amazon's game to lose. And with Alexa calling and soon with Echo Show, it's making nothing but winning moves.

See the entire Echo family at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Modern Dad


Phil Nickinson

Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days. Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!

  • Ms are simply not going to get mainstream with Cortana...a shame, but I seriously doubt it will happen, too much stuff just doesn't support Cortana but does support Alexa, Siri and Google...and that is unlikely to change.
  • Proper innovation is like Amazon/Alexa. It came much later than Cortana, but grabbed majority of this particular market.
  • That';s because they're slow at pretty much EVERYTHING. They announce, "Hey, we have this amazing new technology!" and then bam...five years pass, ten competitors introduce alternatives and three of them do really well. Meanwhile they stand their scratching their ass and wondering why their fingers smell bad.
  • Sadly true
  • Whenever you hear the term "Lack of Urgency" think Nadella.
  • Hey, the fact they have the Invoke in the pipeline this early is a testament to how quick MS has been to adapt under Nadella. Can you imagine if Ballmer was still running the show? He'd ridicule Amazon then not build on of these until four years down the line - when everyone's locked in to their ecosystem of choice.
  • The end result is the same.  So it does'nt really matter.  The end result is a lack of awesome devices from MS.  simple.  
  • Smart home tech is very closely tied to or locked into mobile OS ecosystems, which is a big problem for MSFT. How many Android users use Cortana I wonder, or how many iPhone users use Skype. Failure in mobile is going to hit MSFT hard in emerging tech too, not least in the animosity or indifference of devs to their platforms.
  • Re: Jasongw,
    Spot on. Great ideas wasted.
    Especially with Nadella and Mobile.
  • Then they turn a profit through patent licensing.
  • Sometimes, but not usually. But even if they did every time, being a patent troll is never good for consumers or ultimately, the bottom line.
  • I like smelling mine after i scratched myself. It's human nature.
  • From past experiences, and I have had many of these, I won't even consider purchasing this device unless it has better support. I'm fed up of handing over my cash for six months down the line finding out support for the product is being scaled back, features are being dropped, and bugs are left to fester.
  • So true; Wonder when Microsoft is finally gonna get the message.
  • I can't say I agree with this one.  Cortana has been out there and installed on a gaggle of computers already.  The speaker is probably the easiest part of this and this time, they won't be hamstrung by "timing" like they were with smartphones.  What MS will need to demonstrate is Cortana's dominance on the desktop and connected tablets. Stuff like grabbing images stored on the cloud and sharing them via command. Using their shopping app, I think its called Todo from voice command and most importantly, it has to be able to reach out to music sources like Spotify. I know they have Groove but for me, I don't. And I won't get it until they offer a competing family plan, but if I want to listen to my Spotify playlist, freakin' do it. Also, I want to know from a Cortana speaker what my commute will be like when I leave for work and if I need to plan an alternate route. Do I need a jacket and or umbrella, I mean I want a full slate of information. I should also be able to say "skip that" so it will advance to the next item.  It has to be better than what's out there and it can if MS takes this with enough seriousness. I have an Alexa and there is also a Google thing in my house and both kinda work about the same but my Cortana speaker needs to exceed expectations. 
  • Its true that install base of cortana is huge and will increase but how many are using it actually. Has MS marketed cortana on pcs as such to consumers?
  • That is where they begin. If they move on the Cortana speaker as I think they will, they have no choice but to introduce or re-introduce Cortana, a tool that is probably already on their computers. Moreover, Cortana must be able to speak on Android and Apple devices as well as its Windows phone base to be the kind of successful we all want.
  • Doesn't alexa have the capabilities to do most of that stuff and if not then will soon with the app going to ios and android Plus the show/dot/regular?
    This is why i think the "timing" argument is very relevant and s far as Cortana event expectations, ms send to forget other companies are staying still for them to catch up.
  • The reviewer has been catch in the wave, obsessed with the device but it will pass. Aside from the privacy concerns of these types of devices (Note I tape over camera's on my laptop), this is the first wave, there isn't enough "connected" devices which are cheap and useful (changing the brightness of my light bulb for instance is a gimmick not a real benefit), when they turn up, home devices like these will pass from play thing to essential home item. All MS has to do is bring out a decent device with its partners and link it up to laptops, phones (iPhone/Android) and Xbox One to gain a real advantage with seemless transition (Microsoft Graph). If anything MS structurally are head of Amazon.
  • After the Google speaker incidents, (Burger King/Beauty and the Beast) I think that the drive for these kinds of devices is waning. For it to work ideally, you need to make sure that everything from your fridge to your lightbulbs supports the same OS as your speaker. Also, I make sure to have a no device space.
  • Sadly it's not about the number of devices - if it was Windows Phone would have done fine, even now there's probably more WP phones than their are Alexa devices. People just dislike Microsoft and Windows in sufficient numbers that what's success for one company is death for Microsoft. For MS to have a chance with Cortana, they need amazing features, the best hardware, ultra competitive prices and a massive marketing campaign that will make people see Microsoft in a new light.
  • I'm doubtful too.  In hindsight they should have leveraged Kinect into this type of electronic space.  Yes, Microsoft is generally a day late and a dollar short.  Not because they don't create great products but because they don't know how to use their products once it's created.  It's like they have tunnel vision.  They get stuck inside thier own box.  They can't think outside that box.  As a person who uses an Echo I find it to be a super product.  I generally support Microsoft products but I'll take a wait and see approach on this one.
  • They should have gave the one s a mic array. The cost of entry for using Cortana on the one is too high(and I don't mean solely financially).
    Ill be highly surprised if they don't do this simply thing to increase the ease of engagement for Cortana on Scorpio. ... No I won't. It's Microsoft. What you said is the most frustrating thing about Microsoft. The reason Microsoft seems to be there biggest threat to apple, google, and amazon and why their core fans are so critical of them is because WE ALL see their potential and what they should go or products that would be killer besides them. And then when they finally see it, it's too late for it to have been capitalized. Amazon just announced their homehub-esque device with a screen. What avg consumer is going to wait until fall for a speaker when they can get a speaker with tons of functionality that covered most of what's available now. Why does it take a amateur software engineer to make a real Cortana hologram in a fish tank before y'all even think of taking personal assistance to the next level. They make a speaker with the actual shake part being the size of a dot, set it on top of a glass cylinder in top of another speaker to have a hologram of her present the cars and human gestures, it would wow the consumer world and set the standard for personal assistants.
    Nope, they rather have a partner release a speaker in fall that doesn't even rub on Windows iot
  • And when it comes to outside the US, simply forget it.
    All the others work flawlessly around the globe but Cortana is a mere shadow of her former self here in Australia. MS thinks nationally, the others all think internationally, why I don't know.
  • MS, 1. Needs to stop being "late" to the party. And, 2 learn how to market.
  • MS, 1. Needs to stop being "late" to the party. And, 2 learn how to market.
  • MS, 1. Needs to stop being "late" to the party. And, 2 learn how to market.
  • You can say that again
  • The issue with this regarding Microsoft is how long will they support it before they pull support...not sure its even worth it..
  • Now im sad.... Can anyone give me hope?
  • Lol, looks like no hope then.
  • Alas! Late to the market, as always.
  • This is ridiculous. We're talking about a market of 10.7M devices. That's roughly a fiscal quarter of sales for Windows Phone at it's peak... So, Amazon isn't exactly setting the world on fire with Echo yet. If you're ruling anybody as a victor here, you're delusional.
  • exactly. Betamax had the lead at some point.
  • I think the issue isnt numbers but rather mindshare
  • With the difference that Amazon only has this product available in a couple of countries while WP was available worldwide.
  • The hardware is just one half of that equation, though — and I think you can argue it's not even the most important part. The "Skills" — the APIs — are what really matter. Hell, Google Home can't even set reminders yet. (It can, however, order an Amazon Echo.)
  • The smart speaker market is still so small that it's hard to say that anyone is lapping anyone else.  Amazon sold only around 5.5 million speakers last year according to industry analysts.  That was a substantial uptick from the year before, but a lot of these speakers are novelty items for people.   Personally, I have a Google Home that I never really use.  Occasionally I do, but this isn't really where a solution exists.  The problem is that assistant is tied to the hardware for the most part and you need to buy speakers for several rooms.  It's a novelty item and sells like one. Even if sales double or triple, you're still looking at only 15 million and maybe 20-22 million for the total market.  And I don't see that much interest.  I know a few people that have an Echo and none of them use it frequently.  I think most buy it as an impulse buy.  The techies may love it, but they cannot drive mass adoption. Amazon will not likely be able to introduce the mass adoption solution.  That solution will mean building a personal assistant into tech and allowing it to work across devices.  Apple can do this, but the problem is that it will be limited to the Apple ecosystem.  You can have an Apple smart speaker, a microphone built into an Apple TV, etc - but you will have to use Apple because they aren't making a Siri app for Android.   This is where Microsoft has a play.  Cortana on Smart TVs that will be able to function AS smart speakers, even when the screen is off.  Cortana on Android and iOS.  Cortana on iPad, on Windows, and on other iOT devices.  Why not a Cortana Smart Alarm Clock that ALSO functions as a speaker while being able to play music based on your likes?  There is still a place for clocks that actually show the time.   Microsoft is about doing things that make the technology seamless.  That's not a smart speaker.  That's putting Cortana in a refrigerator, TV, etc and giving them all cloud connection so Cortana can sync and listen to you needs around the house or in your pocket.  She cna make phone calls, text, etc.   It's not about a smart speaker.  That is niche and such a tiny thing.  It HAS to be about a much broader vision that includes working with partners to make Cortana the only real cross platform assistant that works everywhere and on everything.  Can you imagine a refrigerator running Cortana that uses tracking and AI to determine what it is you usually have and then have her tell you when you're at a grocery store via your phone that you need eggs, milk, butter, etc?  Can you imagine a device you can place in your pantry that can do the same with machine learning?   Microsoft needs to create a vision, articulate it, and sell it to consumers and OEMs - and those OEMs make much more than just speakers or PCs.  Sell it to GE, Whirlpool, Samsung, etc.   Amazon lacks vision with Echo and all they care about it forcing people into their ecosystem so they can sell them stuff.  Microsoft can make something much broader and richer than anything Google, Apple, or Amazon can do.  But they need to think BIG, not small.  Just focusing on a speaker is such a small, small thing.  
  • Everyone will be used to using other Assistants (and backend services) by the time Microsoft gets close to their "BIG" vision. Fast, iterative and improving releases is the key to innovation (think Alexa, Android Wear). Release fast, get consumer feedback, release again, etc. Microsoft's plan of going into hiding for years to develop "Ultimate" devices will fail.
  • I think most people do not care what assistant they are using. They all have a girl voice and answer their questions. Do they really care if it's Google, Apple, Microsoft, or Amazon as long as it works?
  • No one uses these smart speakers or even the Google assistant much.  Siri is the only one that has made inroads.  I guarantee that Siri is the most used personal assistant by far.   This is also something worth remembering.  Siri and all of Apple's offerings are powered by Azure, AWS, and Google - so the success of Siri is a positive for all three.  Just as iCloud is powered by all three.  Apple spends a couple billion a year on those three to run its own cloud. But it's not just about ultimate devices, it is about incorporating Cortana into MUNDANE devices.  Cars, fridges, microwaves, ovens, radios, TVs, etc.   Amazon is attempting to approach this with a closed ecosystem akin to Apple.  I'm not sure if Google is really interested in opening things up either because they would LOVE to have an Apple style hardware business.   The problem with this model is it closes the door on established manufacturers.  It also is unlikely that either would want to license tech that would undercut the speaker business.   It's not about an ultimate device.  It's not about a device at all. It's about an user experience that goes across devices - and not just our digital devices.  It's about having a kitchen, living room, bedroom, car, and office that are full of Cortana enabled devices that can listen and talk to one another.  It's much bigger.  
  • Sounds great, but MS aren't interested in making Cortana work globally.
    The only interaction I get from Cortana on anything where I live is "Sorry, but I can't connect to the internet right now, please try again later"
    I'd be kicking a hole in the fridge door.
  • FWIW, though they didn't go in depth weith the speaker at build (no clue why not), they did specify that skype calling was to be a large part of the experience. Additionally, they also have specifications for screens in use with the Cortana service. If all that holds water, and since it came from the horses mouth I assume it does, the only issue I have is again, timing. They aren't out now, which just bodes bad for them regardless. As for the calling feature, I recall dureiong the announcement some outfits were scratching heads saying "why is MS shoehorning skype everywhere", interesting to know some do want calling, maybe they just don't want skype or want it from MS.
  • Invoke is coming in fall, probably end of fall. By that time, Amazon would be working on the next version of Echo, so will Google and Apple is rumored to release their assistant with a screen. Invoke, in its current design, is at least a year behind. Too little too late.
  • Luckily there is a surface event this month... If it is not a surface mobile they will unveil, it might be a surface home.
  • We will hear the "our partners" stuff, but alas they are too late also
  • Got to remember it is not just about the speakers - Cortana is built into 500m devices, and I think has 140m users, the speaker is just adding another point of interaction. I think it all comes down the the eco-system, Microsoft definitely has an 'enterprise' focus, but things like copy and paste across devices utilise Cortana. Echo may be ahead right now from a consumer perspective, but there is everything to play for. I believe that of all the products I've looked at, Cortana currently has the lost potential - but whether it will be implemented correctly is yet to be seen.
  • Maybe so, but Cortana only works on the US ones.
  • Cortana skills only work in the US for now - I'm pretty sure that will change quite quickly in the run up to the launch of the Fall Creators Update
  • How do you know ms not developing Cortana in top secret as they always do. May be next time it'll be so advance joining 'TAY' AI and Cortana.
  • Microsoft needs to sell a small hardware microphone array under $40 that connects to ANY PC or Xbox and then provide the home hub via a free OS update. Then people have a super cheap way to get a very advanced home hub with calling, Cortana etc. Or consumers can buy dedicated units like Invoke.
  • I love how ageism is creeping its insiduous ways into tech articles.
  • FACT: Baby boomers are becoming seniors
  • What ageism? There are realities. My 90-year-old grandparents need an easier way to communicate than smartphones. ... This may well be it for us.
  • Don't worry, MS is working on putting Cortana in Siri, google home, and Alexa. Mobile first, cloud first. The implementation will be: Hey Siri, can you ask Cortana to remind me to buy a PlayStation
  • Lol!
  • Lol
    Or, Hey Siri, can you ask Cortana to remind me to download a heap more apps for my android phone.
  • As usual, when [insert company name here] comes out with [insert name of product here] it spells certain doom for MS.
  • Pretty funny.  Especially when you consider that MS is more diverse revnue wise than any of them.
  • Exactly. But as usual, the moment some other "tech" company does something, MS is in trouble because they didn't do it first.
    Or they're in trouble because they did do it first, and this company "improved" on it.
    Either way it goes, MS is always in trouble. Somehow.
  • The last thing I want is another calling/messaging service with another app required to use it. That makes Amazon's solution a failure to me, although I may be alone in that.
  • Amazon was early... That's it.
  • The Echo with no voice recognition for individual users and the ability to only add two accounts is pretty useless for me right now, I use mine to just play music in the bedroom and the occasional weather update
  • Also there's the advantage of ubiquity. Don't want to buy a speaker thing? Your Windows 10 PC, laptop or tablet can do it at zero additional cost.
    They'll take their time, but with Home Hub, Microsoft will hit back. You can't battle Microsoft at being everywhere. The Echo is just the Amazon Fire tablet of smart speakers. And Google's is just another Google Glass.
  • And Microsoft's is just another Windows phone?
  • The difference is that computers aren't always on or always listening. (That we know of, anyway.)
  • Never seen a Alexa, and they look cheap and hideous. Will never want that in my home. Esp if they don't support windows, there is absolutely no desire to get one from a Windows user. At least that Invoke looks pretty. Not sure i like the whole concept yet. This tech is in its infancy, Amazon was a beta tester showing that some people do buy it.
  • I love Microsoft, but the echo works great and just importantly, sounds great. Facts are facts.
  • I use an echo dot in white for all of my smart home automation. Looks sleek in white, my only complaint is the lack of natural speech.
  • Agree — I've never been in love with the looks of Alexa. (I think the Dot is better just because it's more inconspicuous.) Google home is an improvement. Invoke looks nice, but still like a speaker. (I had an LG Bluetooth speaker that looked like this.)
  • Never in my living space. 
  • Said the exact same thing in an earlier comment section for an article and got down voted. So many readers want to just sit in denial at how bad things will be once Nutella finishes burning the house down, wiping his hands of it, and smiling with his quick cash.
  • I hate the topic of "is it to late for X company to release X product" because its not about release time. Its about how good a product actually is. Just because one company came out with a blender first doesnt mean another company cant come out several years later and make a blender that sells just as good or better. I hate these talking points of "is it to late" NO IT NEVER IS! Its all about how good a product is.
  • Doesn't matter how good something is if you can't actually buy it. Source: I have a Nexus Q on my desk. :p
  • Absolutely right. One could argue that Apple was way to late to introduce a cell phone in 1984.
  • The author described the crux of many of Microsoft's problems in four words (window of opportunity is shrinking). To paraphrase: "The window of opportunity for Microsoft's own (insert Microsoft feature here)  is potentially already shrinking." Whenever Microsoft develops a worthwhile feature/service/etc., it consistently mis-handles it and allows it to languish to the point that the competition catches up, and usually surpasses, Microsoft's implememtation. I guess the most talked-about current example is Continuum, on which MSFT has miserably failed to capitalize, and now Samsung's DeX has stolen a march on Continuum (and you know Google can't be far behind). I have been happily, safely and productively using Cortana in my car and around the house via a Bluetooth headset to initiate, receive and reply to both texts and voice calls, as well as internet searches, unit conversions, navigation requests, traffic updates, etc., for over two years. Neither iOS nor Android has the equivalent capability quite yet ("drive mode" is NOT equivalent to Cortana's texting/calling voice-command capabilities). But Apple and Google are nearly there, and now Amazon is catching up to, and likely passing, that which Microsoft has already had baked-in at the OS level, for well  over two years. Nadells fiddles while Microsoft burns.
  • TBF I think Google's had this problem, too.
  • Yes ECHO is a success but it is in no way can threaten Cortana- or Google- powered speakers. Having an OS behind is HUGE. If implemented as MS showcased, then the Cortana has a great power and fluidity across devices, OS, accounts like linkedin. But again IF IMPLEMENTED right.
  • Know what's better than having an OS "behind" your product? Having your product work on multiple OSs.
  • The answer is to make Cortana accessible if any Bluetooth device with microphone and speakers that has connection to a Cortana enabled device then that should be enough. Made to measure devices if you want one but Cortana available to everyone if you want from £20:00 upwards.
  • MS's answer is the 'HomeHub'.  It is an app which can turn any W10 device into a digital assistant device.  You can configure any shape or size you want with the features you need.
  • No reason why you could not get this device to use Skype.
  •  Am I the only one who seems to think you can kill Echo, Google Home and Sonos with a smart speaker that does multi-room audio? Hopefully, the Invoke comes with Harman's wireless tech that is in their other speakers.  Well that's what  I've been waiting for, one speaker to do everything... And i don't care about or want video calling.   I have Skype setup already on my TV.  Trust me, you'll barely every use it.  Video makes you feel like you need to be presentable, and most of the time at home, you don't want other people to see you.    
  • Google Home does multi-room audio, albeit a little clunkily. ... Sonos does multi-room so seamlessly, but didn't care about smart stuff. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
  • Yea, you must be the only one. ;)  Music is the least used feature for my Dot's.  I turn on and off lights, scenes, the stereo. I set alarms and timers, and occaisionaly I ask a question, forecast, time, appointments.... Not sure why you put Sonos in that list as it is basically a smart speaker that does multiroom audio. The other two, Echo and Google Home are voice interfaces into search engines and home control.  They aren't all that great at multiroom audio, though I think Google Home with chromecast could be a reasonaby priced solution for that.
  • My point is Echo does not do multi-room audio and Sonos is NOT smart without a 3rd party smart speaker/hub.  You need both to accomplish what Invoke will hopefully do all by itself....and Google Home needs Chromecast dongles....again, more separate devices.  Anyway, that's what I'm hoping for, but nothing about Invoke has mentioned multi-room audio yet.
  • I don't watch much tv, but I see an Alexa commercial everytime I do, that will be the true test for MS as always, can they out market a competitor
  • Presumably people will actually need to have this software to receive calls, either that or it'll be US only. Which reduces the userbase significantly compared to skype.
  • Yes, on the phone end it use the Alexa App. (could be te Alexa app on a tablet as well) The same thing you use to set up and interface with Alexa for settings and skills. In this way it is not much different than Skype or any of the other 'closed' options. You cannot, have your Echo make an actual phone call for you, which you can do from Skype. That would have made this a bit more compelling I think. I can imagine getting dinner ready in the kitchen when I realize I need something. Being able to say "Alexa, call Cindy on her cell." and then talk to her handsfree would be useful. Keeps me from having to stop what I'm doing, wash my hands and find the phone. Right now Echo only pairs with a phone for music, either way. If it paired for Handsfree, this could work like a handsfree car set. You could start with, "Alexa, connect to my iPhone." OK, connected. "Alexa, call Cindy". 
  • With over 100 million people with Cortana, and many millions more with skype, I don't think alexa or google home can be thought of as having a headstart of any substantial gravity yet. Ultimately what you want is something that works across devices using natural language, rather than key phrases. Something that runs on your phone, in your car, via your TV, your PC, everything. While the natural language for skills is still on its way, I think Google and MSFT has the edge here - no one uses other amazon products much outside the US.
  • You can buy Amazon Echo. Three of them, actually, with a fourth on the way. You can buy Google Home. If that's not a head start, I don't know what is.
  • Yeah skype and WhatsApp and snapchat, facetime and facebook with the hundreds of millions of active users better watch out because a couple of people with largely novelty devices that are still yet pretty annoying to use, are able to just video message each other. Totally the kings of messaging, yeah.
  • What I want to see on any of those speakers is a intercom function for my home.
    I want to say stuff like "intercom room x" or "intercom person y" and be connected within 2 seconds without anyone having to "pick up the call".
  • To intercom a person you'd have to tell the speakers when you enter out leave a room. I like the call a room idea.
  • That's what I was really hoping for, and am sort of surprised that didn't happen. We have tons of ways to call and communicate with our contacts. What I don't have is 'Alexa, Call Biily's Dot. Are you doing your homework?'. 'Alexa, Intercom All. Dinner is ready, come on down."  That would have been way more useful than yet another proprietary chat/messaging/video system.
  • Amazon has market place to sell Alexa and MS is late again.
  • MS is far behind in this market segment. What gives hope is actually that this is not a 'Surface' device, but something from third party. Why? MS marketing strategy goes US first and eventually rest of world next. Something Amazon is not doing and they see a success with their global approach. That, from my perspective, was one of the killers for Windows phone too...the market in Europe and Asia was having much more potential, but were handled like third world customers...hope this will not happen with the HC device....
  • I think MS has a shot if it continues to focus on premium design and features. The name of the game at this point is generating consumer desirability since Amazon was first to market.
  • When was echo available for customers?
  • I think MS have been very clever here. They have been quietly promoting and reaching there apps onto other systems such as groove on android and outlook, Cortana and so on. When the home hub comes out and the superb looking invoke speaker the network is already there ready to link up. If you get something like Alexa or android versions how many times do you hear there is no app to use on you windows 10 device.
  • I wonder who exactly is going to buy the Microsoft device and trust Microsoft with proper long term support. I sure as hell won't after the past few years of support being pulled for counless products so soon after their introduction; Windows Phone rebooted on nearly a yearly bases, MS Band abandoned, Hololens years down the road still just an overpriced concept device for few devs to play with. Microsoft has all but lost any credibility it might have once had in the consumer space; and after the disasters of the last few years its gonna take a hell of a lot for people to start trusting them again, if ever.    
  • Agree 100%
  • Skype still seems like a better solution. We will see how it's integrated with the Invoke in a few months. I have the Echo Dot, and without smart home devices it's pretty useless. Alexa is very basic as well. Cortana is definitely better, and even Siri is better than Alexa.
  • I wouldn't say its completely late but the issue here is Cortana will seem as an infant IP due to it not being as popular than again supposedly Cortana is actively used by 141 million people. That's a Huge market but depends on if any of those people are going to use it. Me I have Cortana on my PC,Xbox, and on my V20 thing is I never use it. I think as human like voice its been the best one but it stops there. Things are getting very comparable between the rest of it all. Google has its pros and cons with its Home as well as Alexa does and Cortana. But statistically Alexa is on top then Google Home then this Invoke. I hope they do well but I wont get one unless its just fking amazing
  • I know this is wrong place for this but still it's an emergency for me so will be glad if you can help me. Knox security says Truecaller is Malware. Is it true should I uninstall Truecaller because I have been using Truecaller ever since and I am a convert to Android from Windows phone and i didn't have any issue there so i just just want to confirm if it is a problem and should I uninstall it . Thanks.
  • I just don't get it... Why do people want these things?
  • Some people enjoy tech, and for $50 (Dot, less on sale) it is cheap enough to experiment with. If you have any home automation at all, you can find out if voice control has any benefits for you. Saying 'Alexa, turn on the Family Room Light' can be handy when coming in at night with your hands full. Alexa makes a great kitchen timer and alarm, all handsfree. Coming down in the morming, and saying 'Alexa, turn on the stereo', while getting the coffee started beats hunting up the remote. At least it saves a little time.  If you don't get it, get one and you'll have better chance of getting it. If you still don't get it, gift it. Somene else might get it ;)
  • I just can't understand why people would PAY to have your every word be listened to by a big corporation... And yes, your every word is listened to. 
  • Still US-only for all these devices and services; 80% of the world's population don't care all that much...
  • Still US-only for all these devices and services; 80% of the world's population don't care all that much...
  • Our kids ride the bus home, and family members pick them up there. But what happens if for some reason nobody shows? The kids need a way to call their parents....... so this is how our eldest daughter got "her" first phone...... Problem solved. The kids have phones. They can make a call or text. What's the problem. What I really needed was a way for my kids to be able to call their parents without needing a phone. Why? And how does using the Alexa App work without it being on a phone with a data plan? You giving the kids an iPod Touch and hoping they find WiFi? It is no different than Skype, with the exception that one end could be an Echo. The stranded kid end is still a phone. The Echo end is not much different than pairing a BT speaker with your cell phone. A call comes in, the caller is announced, you accept the call and away you go.  This is a neat new feature, but I already have multiple ways to do this. Leaving a message is marginally more interesting if you no longer have a land line. You can still leave a message on someone's cell phone, but this might be valuable to alert whoever gets home first about something, as opposed to an individual. What I'd really like though is a way for me to be in one part of the house and call an Echo in another part of the house. That would be useful and 'innovative'. It would likely sell more Echo's too, as that would make a dirt cheap intercom.  
  • So let me get this straight: Microsoft has another AMAZING piece of technology that is destined to fail because they couldn't get it out in a reasonable amount of time? Shocking.
  • Also, Microsoft's product needs to be $50, like the Echo Dot. If it isn't, forget it.