Microsoft is planning to compete with devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home – not with any hardware of its own but with HomeHub, a feature for Windows 10.
HomeHub will be integrated into a future Windows 10 update, and aims to place Microsoft's virtual assistant Cortana at the centre of a smart home. Windows 10 will be able to control all the homes’ smart devices, such as lights, doors and locks. The multinational technology company is building a ‘Connected Home’ app to make it easy to add all of these devices.
Windows Central reports that the software has been in works since the Windows 10 Anniversary update in July – and suggests that the update already included some of its features. The majority of HomeHub's functionality, however, is not expected until late 2017 and 2018.
More generally, HomeHub aims to make the Windows 10 experience more family-friendly, by adding a ‘family account’ where important shared information, such as family-enabled apps and calendar appointments, will be accessible to the whole family. The family desktop will be fronted by a welcome screen with the intention of acting like a ‘virtual fridge door’ – containing all this important information – according to Windows Central. Third party hardware makers may see the software as an opportunity to build devices that compete directly with the Amazon Echo.
Preparations for making Cortana the driving force of HomeHub were seeded in a recent update which made the assistant accessible from the lock screen. Microsoft plans to differentiate between the user’s personal Cortana and the family version.
Cortana's presence on iOS and Android, as a standalone app, suggest that HomeHub could eventually come to these devices too.