How can Microsoft compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home? By turning every single Windows 10 PC out there into a smart device. According to a massive new report from Windows Central, the Redmond tech giant is developing Home Hub: a new software tool that will allow Windows desktops to accept always-on voice commands, control your smart home gadgets and plan appointments for the entire family.
Home Hub will be part of a free software update that won't require a specific machine, though it seems best suited for touch-based devices such as all-in-ones and 2-in-1s that can serve as a central hub for the family. That's because, among many other big features, Home Hub could make it incredibly easy for multiple users to share the same Windows 10 PC.
A Voice-Controlled Windows for the Family
Users will be able to log into their personal accounts using just their voice, while still having access to a shared "family account" that tracks important things such as photo albums and calendars. These family features will be complemented by a Windows 10 "Welcome Screen," which Windows Central calls a "virtual fridge door" that will allow you to see things like your calendar, to-do list and sticky notes all on a single, touch-friendly home screen.
Cortana: Now Even Smarter
Naturally, Cortana will get a major upgrade for Home Hub. The Windows 10 voice assistant will be always-listening, and will be able to do things such as create calendar appointments for the entire family even when just a single user is logged in. This new version of Cortana, reportedly dubbed "FamTana" internally, may also let you wake your PC with just your voice and stream music from third-party services.
A Windows 10 Smart Home
A concept render of what the Home Hub homescreen could look like. Photo: Windows Central
Home Hub will have a big focus on the smart home, with a special "Connected Home" app that lets you easily manage smart gadgets such as thermostats and light bulbs. The new software will reportedly work with most major smart home devices out of the box, and will even be able to detect new gadgets the moment you connect them to your home network.
Home Hub Desktops & Release Date
While Home Hub will work fine on any Windows 10 PC, Microsoft is reportedly encouraging manufacturers to make new desktops that come optimized for the new software. These machines would likely be large, touchscreen-enabled all-in-ones that don't need a keyboard and that can sit comfortably on your kitchen counter or living room table. If you've managed to get your hands on Microsoft's sleek Surface Studio, for example, you already have a machine that's perfect for Home Hub.
According to Windows Central, some parts of Home Hub may start rolling out as soon as next year as part of the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update. However, the bulk of Home Hub isn't expected to launch until the impending "Redstone 3" and "Redstone 4" updates, which likely won't conclude until 2018.
When Home Hub does launch, it could have some serious competition from Amazon. The online shopping giant is reportedly prepping a new Echo-like device that sports a 7-inch touch screen, which would give some visual context to the myriad of voice commands that Amazon's Alexa is capable of. If all of this turns out to be true, the connected devices of the future won't just be speakers you can talk to, but robust touch devices that serve as the modern version of a fridge full of sticky notes. The smart home race is heating up fast, and we're eager to see where it goes.
Source: Windows Central