This is Microsoft's answer to the Amazon Echo

  • Microsoft is expected to announce Cortana-powered speakers this week.
  • The company's BUILD developer conference begins on Wednesday.
  • Harman Kardon is one partner, and images of the company's "Invoke" speaker recently appeared online.
Harman kardon Invoke
Harman Kardon

Microsoft and Harman Kardon took the wraps off a new speaker with the Cortana voice assistant installed, helping Microsoft take on Amazon Echo and Google Home.

The speaker is called the Invoke. Users can ask Cortana to play music, set calendar appointments, check the traffic, listen to the latest news, control smart home thermostats and more, Microsoft said in a blog post Monday.

Cortana, Microsoft's voice assistant, has so far existed only on mobile devices and in the company's Windows operating system. Like Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant, Cortana can provide information on the weather, stocks, sports scores and more.

So far, however, Microsoft hasn't sold a standalone product that provides users with access to Cortana.

Harman Kardon Invoke 2

The Invoke stands out against competitors with one unique feature. It has Skype built in, which allows users to call cellphones and other Skype users. Google, despite offering services similar to Skype, still hasn't added this functionality to Google Home.

More details are expected at Microsoft's annual BUILD developer conference, which starts Wednesday.

Microsoft still needs support from developers, however, especially if it wants its smart home product to work with the growing number of apps and services. Alexa and Home have thousands of "skills" for example, which allow users to control their homes, stream music, ask for recipes and more.