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Microsoft takes aim at Amazon’s Echo with Windows 10 HomeHub feature

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Microsoft is planning to build a HomeHub feature into future Windows 10 updates to better compete against devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the feature is currently in the planning stages, and the software maker is expected to introduce a “HomeHub” in updates due in 2017 and 2018, and not the upcoming Creators Update.

Windows Central reports that the feature will “crush” Google Home and Amazon Echo, but The Verge understands that HomeHub is designed to be a service and feature that will run on any Windows 10 PC and turn it into a machine where Cortana can be summoned from the lockscreen to provide useful information. Windows Central previously reported that the HomeHub was a voice-activated speaker that was supposed to be unveiled at Microsoft’s Surface hardware event back in October. Those reports were inaccurate, but Microsoft is planning a software feature with the same name.

The primary focus for HomeHub is to create a family environment for a PC. Microsoft has tried a variety of different methods to enable family accounts, privacy controls, and app sharing over the years, but HomeHub is part of a new Family team in the Windows group at Microsoft, sources tell us. Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet reports that Microsoft has been hiring people into this team, with a focus on a family environment for Windows.

Windows 10 HomeHub Welcome Screen concept by Windows Central

Windows Central has obtained some concept plans for HomeHub, including the ability to share appointments, apps, and other data on a PC without it being logged into an account. This would allow a PC to be used like a Google Home or Amazon Echo, for queries via Cortana and for simple access to apps. Microsoft is experimenting with the idea of a Welcome Screen, with a fullscreen interface that will display items as if they’re a virtual fridge door for families. This type of software could enable third-party PC makers to create more kitchen-like devices to compete with Amazon’s Echo.

Microsoft is planning to enable Cortana to be the center of its HomeHub initiative, and the integration will allow the assistant to provide HomeHub-like features across iOS and Android. This will include extending the assistant to control smart devices and manage them from the Windows 10 HomeHub feature. Microsoft’s HomeHub plans are currently in the planning phases, so many features will likely change and the interface itself could be entirely cut out of future Windows 10 updates. Microsoft has largely been left out of the emergence of the smart home, despite having Cortana running on the Xbox One. The HomeHub is Microsoft’s bet to try and control the ecosystem before Amazon, Google, or even Apple provide the best framework to manage devices in your home.

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