Microsoft has been slowly removing Cortana from devices and platforms but this latest bit of news might be the most damning move it has done. While other devices or platforms only had Cortana as an added feature, Microsoft smart assistant is the very essence of the Harman Karon Invoke smart speaker. With Cortana’s upcoming departure, it will downgrade the speaker into just a Bluetooth audio accessory, presuming you get it updated before the end of June, that is.
Smart speakers were the fad a few years ago and anyone with their own AI assistant had their own. Of course, Amazon got the ball rolling with the Echo and Alexa, with Google Home and Google Assistant following soon. Before Apple could actually launch its HomePod for Siri, however, Microsoft partnered with Harman Kardon to create the Invoke speaker with Cortana inside. Cortana, however, is now leaving and the Invoke won’t be the same without it, literally.
Since Cortana is the primary reason for the Invoke’s existence, its absence makes the speaker practically pointless. But rather than waste what is otherwise an actually decent audio product, Harman Kardon has decided to just turn it into a plain old Bluetooth speaker, one that cost $200 back in 2017.
The catch is that you have to make sure that the Invoke gets its last update before June 30, 2021. Strangely enough, Harman Kardon will no longer make the firmware available after that date for some reason. Regardless of that date, the company strongly advises owners to keep their speakers connected to their Wi-Fi networks until Wi-Fi functionality is automatically disabled on July 31, 2021. Curiously, Harman Kardon’s FAQ also tells users not to change their Wi-Fi username and password until that last date either.
Although it isn’t surprising, it’s still a strangely inelegant way for a smart speaker to downgrade to a Bluetooth speaker. Owners of Invoke speakers are also eligible for a $50 gift card from Microsoft for all the trouble they’ll be going through and for once believing in the company’s commitment to Cortana and Cortana-integrated products.