Microsoft Home Hub uses your PC as a centre for the entire family

Posted Dec 5, 2016 by James Walker
The success of Amazon's Echo and rival smart speakers and home automation hubs has created rumours that Microsoft is planning something similar. According to a new report, the company's actually creating something more ambitious, based on your current PC.
The default desktop background for Windows 10  known as  the Hero image
The default desktop background for Windows 10, known as "the Hero image"
Microsoft has previously been thought to be developing something called "Home Hub" that would integrate with Windows 10. Little has been heard of the feature, except that it's supposed to compete with voice-activated smart home hubs like the Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Last week, Windows Central published a report claiming to reveal Home Hub's identity and purpose. According to the site's sources, it isn't a true Echo rival. Instead, it’s a software-based experience that will let you transform your existing computer into something similar to an Echo.
Home Hub is a special mode coming to Windows 10 that lets anyone use your PC without a password. The aim is to create a unified interface that an entire family can use. There's no need to sign-in or authenticate yourself. Anyone can walk up to the PC and use its basic functions through voice control. Home Hub will also allow access to shared family documents, apps, bookmarks, calendars and photos.
The family account will be "always logged in" so you can use the PC immediately. If you're using the Home Hub mode and you want to access your private data, Windows Hello can authenticate you in an instant, using your face or iris, and reveal information from your account. When you're done, you sign out and the Home Hub account is ready for another person to use.
This is the kind of context-aware functionality that the Amazon Echo and Google Home currently lack. The latter in particular has been criticised for only working reliably with a single user. Home Hub is for the entire family so multiple users will be able to train Cortana to recognise them. Private data from individual accounts can then be intelligently added to the family view as required.
Windows 10  Home Hub  Welcome Screen concept art by Windows Central
Windows 10 "Home Hub" Welcome Screen concept art by Windows Central
Windows Central
Home Hub will be led by the Welcome Screen. It's a family-centric replacement for the current Windows lock screen that could be likened to a fridge door or pin board. You'll be able to see your family's calendar, reminders, to-do lists and sticky notes on your PC.
Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant will be constantly listening in this mode, letting you use your PC much like an Amazon Echo. Searches, reminders, the news and music will be accessible with your voice without logging into or even touching the PC.
According to Windows Central, Home Hub is a "massive project" for Microsoft that's currently consuming a large amount of engineering resources. It will headline a future Windows 10 update and be an integral part of Microsoft's efforts to get families and consumers using its technology.
Microsoft seems to be taking the concept of the Amazon Echo and then thinking of ways to expand on it and improve the accessibility. With Home Hub, the only prerequisite is a Windows PC you already have. Millions of families could start to use Home Hub on the day it's released, with no additional purchase necessary. It will combine the Echo's voice features with a hub interface for the family.
Underneath it all, the power of the Windows desktop will remain. Home Hub could become another hero example of the benefits of Microsoft's unified Windows 10 platform. The company already has access to the software services it needs. The company doesn't need to develop new hardware and get consumers to adopt it because a basic PC will be able to act as a Home Hub. Microsoft is simply layering a new interface on top of its existing technology, cutting down the work required to launch a smart home solution.
The feature is expected to start showing up in Insider Preview builds of Windows 10 early next year. Its public release is still several months away though. It's unlikely to be launched until the fall of 2017 and could be pushed further back. Aside from representing Microsoft's first big push into the connected home, Home Hub is also expected to debut the company's new Project NEON design language, bringing refinement and fluidity to Windows 10's interface.