Harman Kardon Removes Cortana from Invoke

Posted on March 8, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos, Smart Home with 50 Comments

Hey, Cortana, $99 is the Right Price

Harman Kardon will soon release a software update for its Invoke smart speaker which removes Cortana and turns it into a standard Bluetooth speaker.

The update will be released March 10, 2021, so in about two days, and Harman Kardon recommends that Invoke users leave the speaker “connected to the internet and kept online overnight between 2 AM and 5 AM local time.” The update will no longer be available after June 30, 2021. For whatever reason.

“If your speaker isn’t already connected to the internet, it’s encouraged that you connect as soon as possible to ensure you receive the update,” a Harman Kardon FAQ notes. “Please note that the Cortana service on the Harman Kardon Invoke will end in the coming months regardless of whether you receive the update.”

As the firm notes, the decision to end Cortana support came from Microsoft, not Harman Kardon.

“Microsoft decided to end support for the Cortana integration in the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker in January 2021,” the FAQ says. “Microsoft has worked closely with Harman Kardon to create a device transition plan that will help ease the impact this has on some of our customers … Microsoft noticed few users engage in the productivity tasks that Cortana is focused on. Microsoft greatly values our customers, and this was a tough decision they did not take lightly.”

Harman Kardon launched the Invoke in 2017, and it was the first—and, I believe, only—Cortana-powered smart speaker.

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Comments (55)

55 responses to “Harman Kardon Removes Cortana from Invoke”

  1. petteri

    I don't mind the removal of Cortana so much as apparently removing all internet access from the device. Losing Spotify connect is worse than losing Cortana at this point.

  2. manzo

    The bigger issue here is that they are removing Wi-Fi from the Invoke, which means they are also removing Spotify Connect from it. I cannot understand this decision at all. Does anyone have any idea why they are doing this? Surely Spotify Connect is not tied to Cortana in any way?

  3. SenorGravy

    Dang. I threw mine away after they bricked it. It was too big to fit into my drawer of Microsoft misfit consumer products.

    • rheuser

      In reply to SenorGravy:

      Must be a big drawer because their are a lot of them. I bought a lot of Microsoft products that were great until Microsoft dropped them: Windows Phones, Windows Mobile devices, Zune, Bands, and now of course among others, my Harmon Kardon Invokes.

  4. angusmatheson

    I don’t understand Microsoft abandoning Cortana. I have no doubt that natural language computing is going to be the future. Microsoft was happy to pour money into Bing and Xbox. Why the cold feet now? Especially when no one - google assistant, Siri, Alexa, or bixbe, is really any good yet. I fear they are all going to take time to get good - so why not stay in there to he ready when it is figured out? We are all going to be talking to our computers all the time - does Microsoft really just want us to pull up a Chrome browser and connect it to the microphone and talk to that?

    • b6gd

      In reply to Angusmatheson:

      Natural Language computing is going to be the future for 40 years now. When Star Trek came out it was predicted to be the future.


      It has its place but I do no see it as the future and complete replacement. I only use Siri, and just barely. I use it to call people or play/pause/stop music on my Homepods....sometimes.

  5. Truffles

    More interestingly, according to Google Harman Kardon is a subsidiary of Samsung. The fact that they decided not to substitute Bixby on the device might hint that Bixby isn't long for this world. The field is thinning.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Guys. They sold like 100 of these things. What they've done is more than enough.
      • manzo

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I know I'm still bitter that , as a UK resident, I didn't qualify for the $50 rebate for these, but I do think that it's incredibly poor that they are removing the ability to use Spotify Connect on these speakers. That was basically the only feature I used on them. A Bluetooth connection from my phone is a much poorer experience, as I want to play music through the speaker, not have every single phone notification binged at me from it too.


        Furthermore, I've already hooked one of these up to an Echo Flex, and the Bluetooth connectivity is shockingly poor; the audio playback degrades after a few days, so I'm having to repeatedly disconnect and reconnect the speaker to the Flex.

  6. spiderman2

    Oh I still remember an article on this website claiming that Cortana was killed on invoke, just because of few hours of disruptions, that article never was fixed... Luckily months later became true, but was totally just luck

    • Paul Thurrott

      Yeah, you've cut right to the heart of our calculated web of lies. Or maybe your memory is just terrible and your spite is misplaced. Here's the article. https://www.thurrott.com/cloud/225504/microsoft-is-slowly-pulling-the-plug-off-the-harman-kardon-invoke
      • spiderman2

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Ok let's say Thurrot is down for couple of days for server issues, I write an article

        "Thurrot Is Slowly Pulling the Plug On the website"

        but at this point you have no intention to close the website... than after several months you change idea and close the website

    • Greg Green

      In reply to spiderman2:

      Sadly MS’ record for pulling the plug is almost as predictable as Google’s record. The 2010s really were a lost decade for MS. This is the lingering after effects of a decade of bad ideas and bad support of good ideas.

  7. yaddamaster

    I picked up both of mine for $50. And I got $50 back for each. So essentially I have two very nice bluetooth speakers.


    I'm disappointed by the removal of Spotify connect - that is a very nice feature. But oh well.

  8. Saarek

    Sounds like these had a reasonable run. Outside of Apple around 4 years in the tech world is pretty good. It's a shame they are reducing the functionality though, that's unusual, but the speaker will still work.

  9. rheuser

    I am sad that Cortana is being removed from both of my Harmon Kardon Invokes. I really enjoyed using it.


    It is same that it will only be a bluetooth speaker. Since it has such great mics, it would have been nice to include them as a bluetooth microphone.

  10. ronv42

    Got the updates on both my Invokes last night. I noticed the connected light doesn't light up anymore and the sound when connecting to Bluetooth is different. Also it no longer has it's name in the Bluetooth device list as I assigned it has the invoke_xxxxx name now. From a sound quality perspective this is still a great speaker.

  11. ndragonawa

    In reply to SvenJ:

    I've known for many months because I follow this site.

    My Invoke's config would need to get reset constantly, and the last time I tried I could not connect to the service.

  12. bbold

    For the past year, when I attempt to 're-connect' my HK Invokes (I have two), they fail to connect to the Internet using the Cortana or Set up Cortana device app and they are unusable. How do we get these connected to the internet again? I'm confused. I just wanna be able to use them as dumb speakers at this point, but how do we?

  13. Jim Lewis

    The part of "Invokegate" that I don't like is that Microsoft did not come across on the promised $50 rebate per speaker for me. I did get a $25 rebate on Surface Headphones v1 for Cortana being removed there. But I furnished Microsoft with all the evidence of a 2017 purchase of two HK Invokes @ $100 each, including a Microsoft Store receipt plus all the other required stuff, e.g., Cortana voice history, and instead I get back "we have no record of these devices..." The dumb thing about Cortana voice history is that it doesn't identify the device by MAC address, etc. I have 3 Invokes, no matter which one is used, the voice history all looks the same. I suggested to MS that maybe the "no record" might somehow relate to being an early tester on a different network, etc. No further reply, no $50 per speaker. So Invokegate for me is that Microsoft talks big but reneges and can't even keep track of its own devices that I've used daily since 2017. I thought perhaps since I got "$100 off" on each speaker from the original MSRP, maybe that disqualified me (and I would at least hope for that explanation) but since another poster in this thread said he only paid $50 each and got $50 back, that ain't the reason, apparently.


    The final part of Invokegate is that it's past March 10th. Cortana is disabled on all 3 of my Invokes. All that's left is "an update is coming soon..." The final joke would be if I not only don't qualify for the $50 rebate but somehow my speakers never get the BT firmware update....


    Does anyone know if it's possible to use the Invokes after the update as a BT stereo pair - if not directly, perhaps with an auxiliary device such as Taotronics makes? That would be a nice touch if it were possible.

  14. SYNERDATA

    Microsoft is a cancel culture corporation.

    It seems weird that they have not cancelled Windows.

    • Paul Thurrott

      \checks An estimated $11 billion in revenues in the most recent quarter. That's why. What were the revenues from licensing Cortana to Harman Kardon? That's why, too.
  15. Scsekaran

    It would be better if they have implemented open standards like DLNA/UPNP in addition to Bluetooth

  16. cfmeyer3

    Mine stopped working completely. It was hooked up to the internet. I had to go out of town for work for a few days, now I just get the white light circling on top. It won't reset, won't go into Bluetooth mode. None of the buttons including the reset button respond. Now useless.

  17. sergeyz

    Can we re-flash it now for Alexa or Google assistant? It would be nice if they open it with an API so it can be repurposed. I hope somebody is on it already.

  18. JH_Radio

    So if you want a BT speakers which sounds good, you could get this and use it as a BT speaker forever? Or maybe not because if I found a new one and got one say in July of this year it wouldn't work at all? or would it still work a as a BT speaker if I wanted it too.

    • gregsedwards

      In reply to JH_Radio:

      If you manage to find one for cheap, then you should be able to buy it with or without the firmware update, get the firmware update between now and July, and continue using it indefinitely as a Bluetooth speaker.

      If you found one after July and you weren't 100% sure it had been firmware updated, then I probably wouldn't suggest buying it, because at that point the Cortana service powering it has been cut off, and the firmware upgrade service has been cut off, leaving you sort of functionally marooned with the speaker that can't do much of anything. In theory the built-in firmware should still be able to support a Bluetooth connection via the hardware button, but it might be pretty awkward to use otherwise.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Yes, it should just work normally as a Bluetooth speaker.
  19. webdev511

    Yep tried to get Cortana to set a timer this morning and all I got was the "update to remove Cortana is coming this week." which made me want to unplug it on the spot because something that's just a BT speaker is of virtually no use in my kitchen. My choices now are an Amazon Monetization speaker or an Google Monetization speaker. Neither is very appealing.

  20. ndragonawa

    what about people who have speakers that can't be set up because the set up app and service was decommed?

    Would like flash the firmware via USB if possible ...

  21. prjman

    It's very difficult to trust Microsoft when it comes to hardware. This is yet another example of it, albeit a small one in the scheme of things.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to prjman:

      How many of MSFT's hardware partners has MSFT not screwed over the years? Seems it's next to impossible to learn from others' experience.

      • mestiphal

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I had a collection of WideWinder remotes and Joysticks that became obsolete with every Windows update. My very first phone, was a wireless phone which used the computer to record voicemails. Two months after buying the phone Windows 98 came out, and the phone became obsolete, they never released a compatible driver

  22. glenn8878

    Microsoft needs to stop trying to appeal to consumers. They can never catch up to Apple and Google. They are just not nimble and polished enough to carry out a competing service. Alternatively, they should open source their failures. Maybe someone else can make it useful.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to glenn8878:

      1. Does MSFT own the rights to everything which would become public if they were to open source Cortana?
      2. Is MSFT really an organization which could take it in its stride if others could make a success from Cortana?

      IOW, I figure there are legal and corporate cultural reasons MSFT just couldn't see its way to doing this.

    • matsan

      In reply to glenn8878:

      Consumers need to stop being lured in by Microsoft! Just because Microsoft is big most user’s work environment it doesn’t automatically mean you should automatically buy their consumer products.

      • b6gd

        In reply to matsan:

        What consumer products? I own and love my XSX but honestly I do not know of any other consumer products, nor would I even consider them. I guess they make headphones or did they stop making those as well???


        I stick with the Xbox for now because of game pass. If Sony can ever offer anything close then....I could jump over to the PS or own both.

      • Paul Thurrott

        Consumers are not lured by Microsoft. That's part of the reason why this speaker failed.
    • Greg Green

      In reply to glenn8878:

      MS used to be nimble. Gates turned the company on a dime when he recognized the importance of the internet. A little bit of over reaction was included, but it was amazing to watch as they moved into the new arena and dominated. But that was a quarter century ago.


      now MS seems too big as they come up with many ideas, good and bad, but then stumble supporting them. Maybe they need to hire google to analyze the consumer analytics, because right now MS seems to be holding it wrong.

  23. gregsedwards

    Pour one out for Cortana. I have four Invoke speakers that I purchased over the lifetime of the device (most at steep discounts), and they still sound awesome, even just as semi-portable Bluetooth speakers. Granted, I'm inundated with smart speakers in my home these days, so I can't imagine a lot of situations where would be more convenient than just using a native Google or Amazon device. Last summer, I kept an Invoke in my car to stream music from my phone for my kids at the pool. But since Microsoft announced the EOL late last year, they've just been gathering dust in a closet. I suppose I might keep one in the garage or back patio to use for music there.

    Anyway, it's a sad day for Cortana enthusiasts worldwide. All three of us.

    I know everyone is moaning about "yet another Microsoft flop," but they did all right by their customers. I got a $50 credit for each of those four speakers (because I was actively using them through last year). Considering I paid on average less than $50 per device and got 3+ years of service out of them, that's not too bad at all. Google just effectively killed the Nest Guard home security system I bought last summer, and do you think they're going to give me any kind of refund or credit for that? Not likely.


  24. Singingwolf

    I would have paid to get Alexa loaded. Dick move.

  25. panjjj

    While it is good they are providing the Bluetooth transition option don't forget when Microsoft first advertised the Invoke they promised support for both Pandora and Spotify (Pandora never came) and also, I believe, down the line you would be able to match speakers for a stereo pair, which also never happened. I have 3 Invokes (only one purchased at the steep discount) and noted they were quite competitive in their infancy for sound quality though IMO the new Echo's (with 3 drivers) are better. If they would have included a micro stereo in port they would have made excellent powered stereo speakers and could have been used with many input sources (I would have liked to use them as computer speakers). Oh well, I'll put them in storage along with my Zune, Band and ancient IBM chicklet keyboard to prove even the mighty stumble ;).

  26. richfrantz

    At least it has good sound quality. I think this update rolled out already. Mine has been nothing but a BT speaker for over a month.

  27. ponsaelius

    This was another "US Only" product that never made it out of the USA. Cortana was billed as the most personal assistant. For some reason Microsoft were able to make sure that its features stayed in the USA and, despite Microsoft's AI and ML, both Google and Amazon won the battle. Siri comes in at third place.


    Farewell Cortana speaker. Most of the planet could never buy it or use it.

  28. Aritting

    it was a great speaker for spotify and npr news. it will be missed

  29. Truffles

    Surely if Harman Kardon advertised a voice assistant as a device feature and that feature stops working, then every customer is due a full refund.

  30. writter

    I can't get Cortana to get off my invoke. I reset by holding the microphone button on the speaker and go through set up. The speaker just has a flashing white ring and eventually cortana will say something went wrong. I tried using my windows 10 pc and iPhone. Anyone else having this issue?

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