Microsoft has been working on a new HomeHub feature for Windows 10 to better compete with devices like Amazon’s Echo. HomeHub is designed to create a family environment for a PC with shared access to calendars, apps, and even a new welcome screen. Microsoft is even planning to support smart home devices like Philips’ Hue lights, to enable Windows 10 to act as a hub to control and manage smart home hardware. While we’ve heard about HomeHub before, The Verge has obtained internal concepts of exactly how Microsoft is imagining HomeHub will work.
The major addition is a new welcome screen that includes an “always on” digital corkboard to let families use to-do lists, calendars, and notes. The welcome screen is really designed for kitchen PCs and new smaller hardware with screens that will support Cortana voice commands from across the room. Microsoft appears to be readying Windows 10 for future devices that are similar to Amazon’s new Echo Show hardware, with easy access to voice search, calling, and smart device control. Microsoft’s differentiator is that it wants these devices to be considered full Windows 10 PCs.
Microsoft is aiming to include the new welcome screen, shared desktops, and easy calling in the Windows 10 update due in September. This update should also include improvements to Cortana, and support for third-party smart home devices. Microsoft’s plan for supporting smart devices looks a lot like Apple’s own Home app, with the ability to manage and control smart devices directly within Windows 10.
Microsoft is tentatively planning to support Hue, Nest, Insteon, Wink, and SmartThings devices with its connected home app. Cortana will be used to send commands to devices, just like Amazon’s Echo. Microsoft has been working with PC makers including HP and Lenovo to create new hardware or refresh existing PCs with a focus on this new home effort. Both HP and Lenovo are expected to have all-in-one PCs ready for the holiday period with support for waking up with Cortana voice commands and the new welcome screen feature for Windows 10.
Any devices that come with these new Windows 10 features will rely on PC partners to create. Microsoft is holding a special event on May 23rd in Shanghai where it’s planning to “show the world what’s next.” Given that Microsoft will need the full support of OEMs to build special devices for its dream of the shared kitchen PC, Shanghai seems like the perfect venue for Microsoft’s new push into the home.