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Rumours emerge over Microsoft rival to Amazon Echo

Smart Home IoT Connected Home

Microsoft would appear to be prepping itself for a more confrontational launch into the smart home arena, as rumours start to circulate about a Cortana-powered device to rival the Amazon Echo.

While nothing has been confirmed by the Microsoft team to date, Windows Central has uncovered a couple of clues which hints at the launch of a Cortana-powered device. Microsoft is already active in the space, as Cortana is available on iOS and Android right now, however pitching in with its own smart speaker system would be an welcome disruption in the smart home race.

A new Cortana Device Setup app launches a new page within Cortana itself, allowing you to access a wizard to set up your Cortana-powered device. There is also a ‘buy’ button within the tutorial which links to a Microsoft landing-page, though it is currently blank. The rumours follow a tie-up with third-party firm Harman Kardon to bring smart speakers to the market last year, but there hasn’t been anything concrete to date. With its annual conference, Build, just around the corner, the timing works out quite well.

It could all turn out to be a coincidence, as the set-up could just be a tutorial to link Cortana to third-party devices, however Microsoft has been looking for a way to re-establish significance in the consumers lives following the decline of the PC. The smart phone might have been a disaster, however a smart home device is a bit closer to home.

The rumours will not be welcomed by the telcos who are seemingly falling further and further behind in the smart home race. The potential of the smart home has failed to live up to the promise to date, however this latest surge is collecting significant momentum.

In truth, ISPs were in a great position to capitalize on the smart home, after all, they already had a box in the house which, with a couple of tweaks, could have potentially acted as the focal point of the smart home revolution. The opportunity to create the walled garden was there, but this possibility is slowly disappearing, along with the prospect of collecting revenues from third parties such as Amazon.

A couple of years ago the business model could have been changed, working with companies such as Amazon to provide the gateway to the home, though it now looks like another missed opportunity. The risk/reward mentality which is clearly evident in the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft, but it also shows the sluggishness and lack of ambition in the operators.

The smartphone revolution normalized the idea of the digital world, and while it has taken some time, this seems to be leaking through to the living room on a mass scale. The connected era looks like it is finally on the horizon, and let’s hope Microsoft are not too late to the party; a third major player would be a welcome addition to encourage competition and innovation.

It does look like the telcos are going to have to look elsewhere to re-establish their authority however.

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