Amazon’s Fire TV Cube is a set top box crossed with an Echo

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Amazon just added another model to its increasingly crowded selection of living room offerings. There’s bound to be some consumer confusion around the line, but the Cube differentiates itself by bridging the gap between Fire TV and Echo. Sure, past set top offerings have incorporated Alexa control, but this latest addition folds in the full smart speaker experience.

In fact, the Cube looks like a big, square Echo Dot. It’s not much to look at, honestly, but the familiar design elements are all there, including the four Echo buttons on top and a glowing blue light that lets you know when Alexa is listening.

The Fire TV Cube follows the lead of the JBL Link Bar announced back at I/O, which has Chromecast built in and effectively doubles as a Google Home when not in use. Here, however, the speaker is only really good for Echo-like functionality. Amazon is largely banking on users bringing their own home theater system to the table.

The upshot of that is that the device runs $120 normally, a price that includes an IR extender capable and ethernet adapter. And those who pre-order the thing in the next two days can get their hands on one for $90. There’s also a $200 bundle that includes Amazon’s Cloud Cam, for those who really want to go all in with Amazon hardware.

Never give up!

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The Invoke Smart Speaker Brings Microsoft’s Cortana AI to Your Living Room

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Cortana virtual assistant already integrates into Windows 10, works on iOS and Android, and will start showing up in cars soon, it’s ready for your home with Invoke. It's good for work, good for play, even has a cool name.

The new Invoke speaker, made by Harman Kardon, is more or less a direct copy of the Amazon Echo - a tall, cylindrical speaker with a blue light at the top that glows when the speaker is listening to you. It can control some of your smart-home devices, set reminders, name the members of One Direction (RIP), and many other things Echo can also do. So far, the Invoke appears to have exactly one unique feature: It can make and receive calls with Skype.

Hey Cortana, open Alexa: Microsoft and Amazon’s first-of-its-kind collaboration

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I talk to Cortana every day — at home, work and on-the-go — to get information about my day, to set reminders so I don’t forget things, and to answer my questions. But I don’t just use one digital assistant. I also frequently talk to Alexa to listen to audio books or to add things to my shopping list. Because people use and interact with all kinds of products, we’re very excited to announce a first-of-its-kind collaboration with Amazon between Cortana and Alexa that will offer more choice, value and access to both intelligent personal assistants.

Available later this year, this collaboration will allow you to access Alexa via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, followed by Android and iOS in the future. Conversely, you’ll be able to access Cortana on Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show.

As our CEO, Satya Nadella, said in today’s Amazon press release, the collaboration between Microsoft and Amazon reflects our belief that when people and technology work together, everybody wins:

“Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us. Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”

By bringing Cortana to Alexa and Alexa to Cortana, I’m excited that we’re adding more value and choice for consumers and developers alike. Cortana users will be able to have Alexa shop on Amazon.com and manage their Amazon orders and access many of Alexa’s third-party skills by asking Cortana to open Alexa, just as Alexa users will have access to Cortana’s world knowledge and helpful productivity features such as calendar management, day at a glance and location-based reminders simply by asking Alexa to open Cortana.

Amazon just launched a cashier-free convenience store

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Amazon just unveiled a grocery store without lines or checkout counters. Amazon Go, a 1800-square-foot retail space located in the company’s hometown of Seattle, lets shoppers just grab the items they want and leave; the order gets charged to their Amazon account afterwards.

Amazon Go works by using computer vision and sensors to detect what items you’re taking out of the store. You start by scanning an app as you enter the Amazon Go shop. You do your normal shopping, and the sensors throughout the store identify the items in your cart and charge them to your account when you walk out the door. It’ll feel like shoplifting, except you’re actually being watched by more cameras than you can imagine.

AWS public cloud is twice as big as Microsoft, Google, IBM combined

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Amazon Web Services is utterly dominating the competition, taking 45 percent of worldwide revenues for public cloud services, according to a new analysis.

Microsoft and Google might be increasing public cloud revenues faster than AWS, but they've also got a long way to go to come close to catching up, a new analysis from Synergy Research Group shows.

The combined revenues from Microsoft, Google, and IBM amount to less than 20 percent of worldwide infrastructure-as-a-service, or IaaS, revenues in Q3 2016, compared with AWS's 45 percent, the research firm reports.