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Amazon Echo has a new rival, in the form of Windows 10's smart assistant, Cortana
Microsoft is believed to be almost ready to begin testing its Amazon Echo-style smart speaker with consumers.
The hands-free smart home device, which was first teased by luxury audio brand Harman Kardon earlier this year, is expected to launch soon.
Microsoft has teased the upcoming announcement itself.
The Redmond-based technology company recently debuted a new smartphone app for its virtual assistant Cortana, entitled "Device Setup".
The application walks users through the set-up process for Cortana-powered home devices.
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The problem is – for now, at least – these Cortana-powered home appliances don't actually exist.
Microsoft has yet to formally unveil a smart speaker running its Siri and Alexa rival Cortana.
According to anonymous sources speaking to blog MSpoweruser, the company is preparing to invite Cortana users in the United States to be part of a device pilot scheme soon.
The final product will probably be unveiled on-stage at the company's developer conference, dubbed Microsoft Build, next month.
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Microsoft has previously teased a Cortana-powered smart home device
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Build is often a launch platform for new Microsoft hardware.
The 2017 developer conference is being held in Seattle, Washington, between May 10th and 12th 2017.
The smart speaker will likely be unveiled during the opening keynote for Build 2017, alongside new information on the next Windows 10 operating system update, and the eagerly-awaited Microsoft Surface Pro 5. Few details have surfaced about the connected Cortana gadget.
However, since it is powered by the same voice assistant that lives in the Windows 10 Creators Update taskbar, it's likely the speaker will have the same functionality.
That means users will likely be able to ask general knowledge questions, check the weather, play music, check on flights statuses, book appointment in their calendar, set alarms, and more, without lifting a finger.
The news comes as Microsoft pushed-out its hotly-anticipated Windows 10 Creators Update.
Creators Update brings a wide range of new additions, tools and upgrade to your software, with a particular focus on the media and design industries.
You can check out Express.co.uk’s guide to the top features to look out for in Windows 10 Creators Update here.
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The best-selling Echo was praised in our review, however, it now faces increased competition in the UK, thanks to the recent launch of the Google Home.
Amazon recently announced a free software update that will bring its Alexa smart assistant to all Fire TV devices in the UK, including first generation Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.
The software update will make Alexa available to millions of customers with Fire TV devices already set-up in their home – without the need for any additional hardware.
Unfortunately, instead of simply being able to use the wake word "Alexa" before launching into a query, like the Amazon Echo, Fire TV owners are required to press the microphone button on the remote, or within the companion app on iOS and Android.