HomeHub Needs To Be Windows' Headless Horseman

Microsoft will be including new functionality in the next release of Windows 10 aimed at competing with Amazon's Echo and Google's Home devices. The feature, to be called HomeHub, according to more than one source, will extend Cortana's under the lock screen feature to create a personal assistant for the whole family.

That's a nice idea, but Microsoft has some work to do to make this useful or even viable.

Currently Cortana on the Xbox One offers some of this functionality - you can turn your Xbox on, launch apps and perform web searches when the Xbox is sleeping. However Cortana on the Xbox is mostly mute, the strength of the Amazon Echo is that it has no screen and Alexa responds verbally to natural language queries.

HomeHub needs to be usable in exactly the same way. At the moment Cortana too often replies with a 'here's what I found' message and displayed results. That isn't going to be an acceptable alternative to what Amazon is currently offering.

HomeHub needs to be able to work headless - without a screen - and not only will it need to work headless, but it must also provide sufficient intelligence to allow third-party OEMs to build Amazon Echo-like devices which are straightforward for a user to setup.

The beauty of the Echo is its ability to live anywhere in a home unobtrusively. That isn't something that a PC could ever do. So if Microsoft wants to have skin in this game it needs to think bigger than just adding new lock screen functionality.