Microsoft’s Home Hub to rival Amazon and Google will be software not hardware

Scant details of Microsoft’s Home Hub system have surfaced online, suggesting that the rival to Amazon and Google’s smart home hubs will be a full software solution, rather than requiring a standalone device.

Details drawn together by Windows Central this week suggest that rather than aiming for a screenless unit activated purely by voice commands, Microsoft’s Home Hub will reportedly aim at pulling together different Windows devices in a home to allow for easier access across the whole family, and home automation tasks like you can already carry out on the opposition’s hardware.

The bonus of not tying Home Hub to a single device, and instead integrating it as a standard feature of upcoming releases of Windows 10, is that those devices already have a display built in. While voice control is an inarguable convenience that will form a core of Microsoft’s Home Hub features, the ability to use alternate inputs is a smart way to approach it.

The Hub will also reportedly significantly revamp clunky account sharing features to make it easier for families to share certain content with everyone in the home. Right now, you can have single accounts for each user and switch between them, but the Home Hub will bring the ability to have a ‘family’ account that can be accessed by anyone without a password.

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While that might not sound too advanced, users that open the family account will still be able to get their own personal information (calendar events, for example) by authenticating via Windows Hello. An easily accessible Hub that can still show you private information when authenticated is considerably smarter sounding.

As part of the Family Desktop, parents will also get an easy way to control which apps everyone can access, making it particularly handy for parents. These rules will also be applicable across Windows Mobile, iOS and Android apps, apparently.

Perhaps more intererestingly than any of that, however, is that Cortana’s integration into the Hub will bring an ability to recognise and respond to different family users – providing information and services specific to that person. Naturally, it should also be able to do the same sort of home automation tasks you’d expect of a smart home system and will reportedly support OCF (Open Connectivity Foundation) and OpenT2T (Open Translators to Things) standards for controlling devices.
 
Now for the bad news. Building an all-encompassing hub appears to be an iterative process for Microsoft and it’s unlikely all the features will arrive at once. Given that there are now two capable smart home systems on the market, long delays could see Microsoft cede some of the advantage of the breadth of its desktop user base.

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