Update 5:56PM ET: Microsoft has responded to the issue. "There was a small outage that impacted the Invoke in certain regions of the US, but the issue has been resolved."
Over the weekend, the few users left of Harman Kardon Invoke speaker featuring Microsoft's Cortana assistant began to have problems. Many took to Twitter to complain that the speaker simply stopped responding to commands leading many to fear Microsoft was pulling the plug.
Is there any truth to it, or should we chalk this up to some misreporting? Let's find out.
What's going on?
Users began to complain over the last few days that the Invoke would no longer obey commands often with Cortana, stating she "can't do that right now." Such functions as timers, reminders, controlling smart appliances, and even playing music were affected:
The experience seemed more of an outage rather than a removing of features, but the experience is terrible, nonetheless.
Is it still happening?
For this article, we pulled out one of a few Invoke speakers and hard reset it. We then walked through the setup process using an iPhone and the Cortana app. The Invoke had no problem setting up and registering with our Microsoft Account.
After the setup, we tried the following:
- Play Spotify
- Call up Amazon Alexa
- Get the weather
- Set a timer
- Turn on and off our Xbox
- Turn off our (Hues) office lights
- Turn down the temperature (Ecobee)
- Get calendar appointments
- Check for new email
- Read back email
- Random trivia
- Basic math problems
- Tell a joke
All these features are working on our speaker implying that what happened over the weekend was more of an outage and not a policy change.
We are using the Invoke in the United States and can't account for regional issues, nor have we done exhaustive testing of every command, so your mileage may vary.
However, not everything was perfect in our testing. For instance, Cortana could not set the specific temperature to our Ecobee thermostat, e.g., "Hey Cortana, set the temperature to
Cortana says just a service outage?
While Microsoft does have a history of removing features from older products – especially killing off Ballmer-era projects – the company is usually forthright when they do decide to end support. More often than not, Microsoft is keen on giving a firm date (see Windows Phone, Groove Music, and Windows 7). However, no such pronouncements were made regarding the Invoke speaker.
Indeed, back in November we asked Andrew Shuman, Corporate Vice President of Cortana, about Invoke and were told on the record that support would continue. While no new features may be added, we were led to believe that those who use the Invoke today should be able to continue to do so for the foreseeable future (Shuman noted his daughter was a big user of the Invoke).
What happened this weekend seems more related to the continued backend work Microsoft is doing retooling Cortana as an Office assistant for paying Microsoft 365 customers. Cortana on the current Windows Insider Fast Ring (20H1, 190xx) have seen many basic Cortana features put on hold, e.g., solving simple math problems, telling a joke, or answering basic trivia - all of which are still working on our Invoke. But some of that effort may have bled over to Cortana on the Invoke resulting in this weekend's feature outage.
We have reached out to Microsoft for more clarification regarding Cortana on the Invoke and will update this article if we hear back. Microsoft has responded: "There was a small outage that impacted the Invoke in certain regions of the US, but the issue has been resolved."
For now, it is safe to disregard some of the more speculative and hyperbolic articles reporting that Microsoft has "removed" Cortana. Some simple testing would have demonstrated otherwise.