There have been rumours abound for a while, but new reports have emerged suggesting that Microsoft's smart speaker plans are more than just the desires of bloggers. Windows Central is claiming, through multiple unnamed sources, that the Redmond-based tech giant is developing its own Amazon Echo-rivalling Home Hub but with one key difference to its rival products: it's software, not hardware.
According to the site, Home Hub will be a software update for Windows 10 that will make the Windows PC more like a smart speaker. Apparently it has been in development since before the Windows 10 Anniversary Update that was first revealed in 2015. While Home Hub isn't a dedicated device, the software can reportedly do everything that the Echo and Google Home devices can but with the benefit of a screen. Support for Pen and ink are also part of the plan.
Microsoft is of the belief that adding a screen to smart devices will make them more approchable and useful to average consumers, with a particular focus on families. Microsoft aspires to make shared PCs more comunial and helpful for multiple people. With new sharing features and user interfaces, the company believes that Home Hub will be a compelling competitor to other smart assistants.
What this all means in reality is that Cortana – launched with Windows Mobile 8.1 in 2014 – will become a lot more powerful and will have the ability to interact with smart home devices, such as lights, thermostats and locks, in addition to the Cortana's pre-existing features.
Home Hub is a huge project, and it is unclear as to when it will launch. Some sources claim that Home Hub will be one of the key features of Redstone 3. And while we don't know when that'll be, the company announced Redstone 2 – the Creator's Update – last month, so don't expect to hear anything concrete about Home Hub for a while yet.
Microsoft however would be wise to not leave Home Hub too long. With the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers becoming more and more prevalent, a hesistancy on Microsoft's part to launch Home Hub could leave the company slipping behind in this emerging market.
It is worth noting at this point that the report is mostly speculative and that Windows Central stresses that it isn't official information and that individual features could change.