Amazon pioneered the progression of voice-controlled ambient computing with its Alexa-powered smart speakers. The Google Assistant-powered Google Home and Apple’s Siri-powered HomePod eventually followed. In 2017, Amazon upped the ante with its Amazon Echo Show smart display. The Echo Show brought the ability to display interactive content to the smart speaker battle.
Microsoft was notably absent from this space until the embarrassingly-neglected Cortana-powered Invoke Harman Kardon smart speaker hit store shelves. With little marketing and an assistant with limited skills, mindshare and geographic reach, Microsoft’s initially-$200-priced speakers remained unnoticed by consumers. A recent Invoke price cut and Microsoft’s repositioning of Cortana as a business-focused assistive agent may signal Microsoft has little intention of recommitting to the consumer-focused ambient computing space.
This would conflict with the company’s professed commitment to the professional and personal user across work and play. In a nutshell, Microsoft’s recently revisited commitment to users across their professional and personal lives demands Microsoft ensures Cortana-powered ambient computing is available to users at home just as it is at work. Two years ago, Microsoft revealed a Home Hub plan to turn hundreds of millions of Windows 10 PCs into Cortana-powered smart speakers with screens. Microsoft’s plan was great, but the execution poor, and competitors like Google introduced products that are everything Microsoft’s should have been.