Microsoft's first Amazon Echo competitor will be available in 2017

“The technology is applicable in one-to-one conversations such as a traveller getting information from a concierge, one-to-many interactions such as a tour guide speaking to a throng of tourists, and many-to-many communications such as multiple immigrants sharing experiences in a support group”, explains Microsoft in a blog post. “Premium audio meets your personal assistant” is how it’s billed in a new promotional video.

Available now and costing £149.99, reviewed the Amazon Echo earlier this year, and was very impressed. The device, according to Windows Central’s Daniel Rubino, was set to include Cortana, the company’s digital smart assistant. Although Microsoft hadn’t announced any devices, nor are the company’s device partners, it suggested it was ready to allow Windows and Cortana to go up against Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.

Pundits are dubbing this as Microsoft’s competitor for the Amazon Echo.

Harman Kardon is a name known to most as audio and speaker specialists. Those devices will be enabled by the second tool, the Cortana Devices SDK. There is no info yet on when this product will be released to market.

Microsoft in a blog post said “The Cortana Devices SDK will allow OEMs and ODMs to create a new generation of smart, personal devices – on no screen or the big screen, in homes and on wheels ” Clearly, the upgraded artificial intelligence software can be extended to a wide range of devices and not just other operating systems, be it for home automation or for in vehicle control systems.

The Grand Tour hits screens in November. Microsoft and Harman Kardon’s answer to Amazon Echo and Google Home is set to arrive to arrive sometime in 2017.

Although the new software is not expected until next year, Microsoft already appears to be laying the groundwork with hardware manufacturers.

Home Hub friendly machines would be able to recognise voice commands from a much greater distance than most standard laptops or desktop computers.