This is Microsoft's Home Hub, coming to Windows 10 PCs next year

Earlier this year, there were rumors that Microsoft was working on a Cortana-powered standalone device that would compete with Amazon's Echo. Those rumors turned out to be untrue, as Home Hub is actually a feature of Windows 10. Today, a report from Windows Central tells us more about Home Hub.

One thing that's clear is that Home Hub is most certainly not a dedicated device, but since it runs on a Windows 10 PC, it can turn your all-in-one into an Echo- or Home-style device. The goal is to make the PC more family-centric, allowing members of the family to use shared resources.

As it stands right now, everyone accesses a PC through individual accounts, and there's also a guest account. With Home Hub, there will be a family account, which will allow users to access a subset of features without logging in, such as a shared calendar, appointments, specific apps, and so on.

There will also be a shared Welcome Screen, which will show information from those shared resources. The Welcome Screen is meant to be visible and informative, running on top of the desktop experience, and Cortana will always be listening while it's on.

You'll notice that the Cortana logo has an orange outline around it, and that's meant to differentiate between an individual user's notebook and the family's. Internally, this is being called "FamTana", and it's designed to make Cortana more family-friendly, which would be a unique advantage over many of its competitors, such as Google's Home.

According to the report, there's nothing stopping third-party OEMs from building their own Home Hub devices, but Microsoft is encouraging them to build all-in-one PCs around the idea. Ideally, these devices would be created for the living room or the kitchen.

Of course, one has to wonder if any of this will be an advantage at all. These days, pretty much all members of a household have their own computing devices, whether it's a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or something else. Devices like Amazon's Echo have worked so well precisely because they don't have screens. Would anyone really be served better with an all-in-one PC in their kitchen then they would with, say, and Echo Dot?

But then again, some families might not be able to afford additional hardware (and some may find it simply unnecessary), and since Home Hub will work on existing PCs, it could end up being useful to some users.

The answer to that question won't arrive for some time, as Home Hub is slated to arrive throughout Redstone 2, 3, and 4. Redstone 2 is the Creators Update, which is slated to arrive early next year, with Redstone 3 coming in late 2017 and Redstone 4 coming in early 2018.

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