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Microsoft Debuts the Invoke Smart Speaker

Microsoft’s would-be rival to Amazon.com’s Echo home speaker has a name: Invoke. The cylindrical tower, built by speaker and electronics firm Harman International, was teased by the Samsung subsidiary and Microsoft in short blogposts on Monday. The speaker will come in black and white [pictured above] when it is released in the U.S. this fall. Pricing details haven’t been announced.

The gadget is the clearest Microsoft response yet to the success of Amazon’s Echo, which is powered by the Seattle company’s Alexa digital assistant. The Echo functions as a speaker and can answer a range of voice commands, from toggling audio tracks to adding items to a shopping list and reading the news, among others.

Analysts have said that the Alexa software could radically change how people interact with machines in the home and become a profit engine for Amazon. Its utility isn’t limited to the Echo, as builders of refrigerators, washing machines and other appliances are rushing to make their own machines compatible with Alexa’s voice commands.

Google got in on the action in 2016, a year after the Echo, with a similar device, the Google Home, that uses the company’s own take on voice-activated software.

Microsoft hasn’t yet joined the party with a speaker. The company’s Cortana digital assistant is primarily a resident of Windows 10 personal computers. Microsoft has said it will rely on other hardware makers, like Harman, to match the range of applications Alexa is finding.

Harman’s Invoke will come with Cortana, as well as calling with Microsoft’s Skype voice and video chat service.

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