As smart assistants go, there are the favourites: Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and then there are the also-rans: Bixby and Cortana.
Samsung is doggedly trying to make Bixby happen, creating several upcoming smart speakers to rival the Apple Homepod, Google Home and Amazon Echo. But Microsoft is apparently taking a different approach, also known as "not throwing good money after bad."
According to Slashgear, "the software giant still resists calls to develop its own smart speaker, instead relying on third-party hardware like the Harman Kardon Invoke to fill that niche."
Wait, someone's calling for Microsoft to make Cortana speakers? Who? Why? Is it that one guy with the Windows Phone Forever tattoo?
Harman Kardon's Invoke speaker was manufactured not by Microsoft, but by the prestigious sound brand with the spoonerism for a name. Microsoft just provided Cortana's innards.
It hasn't been massively popular in the US, and hasn't been released over here at all.
There are a few other devices with Cortana, but often also include the more popular smart assistants.
But Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott tells VentureBeat the company is actually perfectly happy with the situation, thank you very much:
"On the smart speaker side of things, we’ve got a bunch of partners who are building Cortana-powered things right now and we’re super excited about all of those, but it’s not like we’re going to have a single Microsoft-branded Cortana smart speaker that’s going to be the thing that carries Cortana to customers."
...because no one wants that, is the hidden context.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing. For too long, all the tech companies have looked at what the others are doing and made their own version of it. The Bixby speaker -- actually, Bixby in general -- is a perfect example. We don't want tech brands to each have their own version of the same thing (unless it's genuinely better, of course): we want them to innovate, to offer us something we can't get elsewhere.
A Cortana speaker wouldn't do that, and so Microsoft is right not to throw money at trying to compete where it'll never win.