The smart home world literally exploded this week when news leaked that Microsoft plans to take aim at Amazon Echo and Google Home with HomeHub. The rumor is that HomeHub would not be a standalone device, but rather an update to Windows. This is a wise decision, given that Windows is still the most prevalent operating system in the world, and many homes have a family computer already sitting in a common area.
The idea is that the update will give Windows 10 machines with Cortana the ability to answer (presumably to “Hey Cortana”), even when in sleep mode. The big differentiator for HomeHub so far is that Microsoft envisions multiple users being able to access their individual information, or sharing information across accounts. Since HomeHub would be running on a Windows device, the assumption is that it would be a device with a screen, and it would be capable of displaying a host of information including news, third party app content, or each family member’s schedule. And really, with a nebulous release date of “some time in 2017 or 2018” the sky is the limit here!
If you’re picking up my sarcasm, it’s because this is just a rumor. Microsoft, like Google, likes to show off flashy products and then make us wait 12+ months before releasing something kind of similar to what we were wild about a year prior. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cortana. I think she’s one of the better virtual assistants and operating way below her potential right now. But A LOT of work needs to be done to get HomeHub off the ground. Amazon and Google have already had to contend with people who are afraid for their privacy with always listening devices around the house. I think even more people would be worried about anyone in the house being able to ask their PC for information at any time.
Before Microsoft tackles the release of an entire platform, I’d like to see more smart home…or any smart home…compatibility added to Cortana. She’s already there on millions of PC’s with a fairly robust library of functions, but no compatibility with smart devices. I’d even settle for an IFTTT Cortana channel to patch together the functionality.
Long and short, I’m hopeful that this turns out to be true, and that Cortana gets the features she deserves, but I’m not holding my breath.