Microsoft's Home Hub vision makes more sense with Windows 10 ARM and Project Evo

Project Evo and Windows 10 on ARM are two very important projects that help lay the foundations for Home Hub, Microsoft's up and coming Windows 10 feature that aims to make Windows 10 PCs the center of your home. We recently blew the lid off everything Microsoft has planned for Home Hub, but with the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home storming the "connected home" and "virtual assistant" market, many of our readers were questioning whether Microsoft's vision for this market is the right one.

Home Hub aims to turn any Windows 10 PC into a hub for everything in your home. It'll allow you to control your smart home devices with Cortana, and Cortana will be able to differentiate between different family members thanks to Windows Hello. There's so much more to it, but in short, devices that utilize Home Hub will be viable and active competitors to the likes of the Amazon Echo and Google Home. The only difference being these Home Hub devices, at least at first, will require some kind of screen to function.

This requirement of a screen was recently confirmed at WinHEC, as Microsoft still needs to do some work with Cortana before she's able to function only by voice. It does appear some hardware makers are getting around this requirement however, as a recent device announcement from Harman Kardon appears to showcase some kind of Cortana speaker, and it's unclear at this time whether this speaker has some kind of screen. Regardless, Microsoft wants Home Hub devices to utilize a screen at first, and oddly that appears to be a problem for some people.

Now of course, Windows 10 on ARM and Project Evo aren't just for Home Hub, they're for any kind of Windows 10 device you can think of. But these two projects do benefit Home Hub devices immensely, as it allows hardware makers to build devices that were not possible before.

The biggest complaint that I saw from readers was that devices with screens will likely draw more power when idle/sleeping, and considering a lot of these Home Hub devices will be full PCs underneath, that's a significant amount of power being drawn compared to the likes of the Amazon Echo, which doesn't use a crazy amount of power. This issue is resolved with Windows 10 coming to ARM, in theory, as ARM powered devices -- even with screens, draw very little power.

ARM devices can come in all shapes and sizes, not just tablet/laptop form. If a hardware maker wants, they could build a full AiO powered by an ARM chip, that's super thin, looks gorgeous and works great as a Home Hub device. They could build an ARM powered fridge, with a huge 40-inch screen on the door. Home Hub's Welcome Screen is meant to ape the role of the refrigerator door — with ARM it could literally be the refrigerator door.

Traditional PCs also aren't that great at the "always connected" aspect that we'd expect out of something like a Home Hub device. Connected standby is great, but it doesn't really work for those who want to be able to wake up devices with their voice using Cortana, or have Cortana always listening even when the device is in sleep mode. Project Evo tackles these problems too, by allowing OEMs to build devices that, even when idle, will always be listening and ready to take queries with voice. This will be a huge bonus for Intel-powered PCs, as it means they can function similarly to that of ARM based devices that are already able to always be listening. ARM, naturally, is already equipped to handle those demands.

Also on the list of complaints: some were upset at Microsoft for making this a thing for PCs. Amazon Echo and Google Home are dedicated devices that don't look or act like PCs, whereas Home Hub is designed to run on PCs. While this is true, Home Hub devices don't necessarily have to be PCs. Sure, it can run on PCs, but it can also run on IoT devices, laptops, and tablets. Not only that, but with Windows 10 coming to ARM, hardware makers can finally begin looking at building super thin, long lasting, unique devices that don't resemble PCs at all.

And I think that's where the most exciting prospect of these recent announcement are. Hardware makers now have the opportunity to build incredible, innovative devices that were not possible just a few months ago. Home Hub will be able to take advantage of these hardware innovations, and it should open the door to a whole market of smart-connected devices, powered by Windows 10 and Cortana.

Microsoft is serious about getting into the "virtual assistant" market with Cortana, and with Windows 10 Home Hub devices coming in 2017 and 2018, it won't be long before we see what hardware makers have to offer. We've already had a teaser from Harman Kardon showcasing some kind of Cortana speaker, and it looks real nice. We should be expecting more of that, as well as even more unique and crazy kinds of devices, to show up in the future thanks to Windows 10 on ARM and Project Evo.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • All that's left is for the weather app to show fridge temperature
  • Actually Cortana's AI goes beyond measuring sensors output on devices (like a temperature sensor on a Fridge), that is cool I know, but it can go much more than that, thanks to its machine learning algorithms and computer vision in future fridges we can ask Cortana to classify our food by nutrient groups, this will be great for keeping us and our friends healthy, and thanks tou social networks like LinkedIn which was recently acquired we may be able to know about our colleague refrigerator products if they allow to share this info to their social network of colleagues.
  • Yayayya how long do we hear that crap about smart fridges? For 10 years now. Ain't gonna happen soon unless all food packages have some chip that tells the fridge what the **** it actually is. And food without chips? Bad luck.
  • There's barcode, if that helps.
    But you reading it wrong, its not meant to tell you how to eat or how many glasses of milk are left.
    The food will be like apps on your start screen.
    The info you get will be based on the data you hope to get.
    If you need more Apple, you Google Here and... suddenly Bing !!!, its at your door.
    Keeps you on the Edge at least.
  • Talk to me again when in 5 years smart fridges are still just a concept and not a reality in everyone's kitchen.
  • They just talk, don't deliver
  •  Here we go again! Microsoft doesn't have a clue how to market this. Apple, Google & Amazon are way ahead. Stick to something you are actually great at, writing software.    
  • Actually as it stands, Surface is much "greater" than Windows. Up until Windows 7 and Windows Phone 8(ish) Microsoft was great at software. But then things changed.
  • Windows 10 on ARM is great for IoT, Home Hub is 1 great solution as the article says, but another one is Samsung's own Home protocol used in Samsung's Tab Pro which runs using full Windows 10.  Is really good to hear that Microsoft is putting effort on making the transition of full Windows 10 to ARM devices a very promising future.  
  • Please, late to the game again.  Nobody will use this because everyone will be fully immersed in Echo or Google already
  • Not really, I live in Mexico and Echo and Google Hub are not sold here, this is a great chance for Microsoft to bring Cortana's AI into our IoT devices not only in US but globally as they do with full Windows 10 support (Creator's update).
  • The biggest problem though is the crucial part of HomeHub, that is Cortana. Its availability tp other countries is a question, let alone the available functionality. This is the biggest achilles heel which Google doesn't have much problem with. They just need the hardware to be distributed on not-yet served countries that already supports Google Assistant. Microsoft really has to accelerate the availability of Cortana and its features to other countries. Their international push felt like its under-prioritized which makes Cortana roll-out taking forever.
  • Literally no one I know has or even has expressed interest in echo or google home. But pretty much everyone I know has a Windows pc of some sort.
  • Yep. Most don't even know yet home hubs exist.
  • Curious if the ones you are referring to are all running Windows 10.
  • Windows 10 on IoT products can indeed make a perfectly connected virtual environment. With Cortana's latest advancements such as the long range voice activation, subtle human approach, msft can bring a lot of things together as they have the advantage over others. However, IoT on daily products could become dependent on the internet so much and when things that are intended to run independently becomes less of it, it can get a lot scarier.
  • Sadly, in a lot of different ways, that seems to be the future we're heading towards.
  • What the big take away for me about FULL Windows 10 on ARM is that it enables ODMs to make wireless connected x86 code running devices for a much lower price. ARM Laptops and desktops are nice, but there's no ground breaking new experience that will be brought by this. What is really exciting is that the next version of Hololens could come with an entry level ARM version making it much more affordable with potentially better performance and wireless connectivity for truly taking the experience mobile. There's also the potential for the long rumored Xbox TV device that has the Xbox One interface and directly competes with Apple TV and Roku devices. And of course the IoT devices that would appear with Cortana and other services that we can't even imagine yet. Even the next Band could run with an ARM processor. There's a lot of excitement around this and it is completely justified.
  • Everyone I know who has used both playstation and xbox all hate the xbox ui and prefer the Sony one. Yet people on here seem to love it. It's just not a good UI, especially if you're getting gamers from the playstation coming over. Sony's is actually more like a windows 10 interface than the xbox one. It has tiles and is nicely organized in categories that expand. Nice and big icons/text. MS feels like a badly done website.
  • Everyone I know who has used both playstation and xbox all hate/dislike the playstation ui and prefer the (refreshed) Xbox One UI. Simple. Like it should. For a Console UI. The W10 UI fits tablets and desktop modes.
  • Sonya UI is a disaster. It requires far more clicks to get anything done than the XB1. Fact. The Linux based lines of stuff on PS is not user friendly at all. Only Sony faithful claim it is better.
  • I do think ARM in PCs will be pretty significant. I'm curious as to whether a larger thermal envelope will allow for greater performance. It should. I am also looking forward to support for discrete graphics cards with ARM, which won't happen for a while, but I see a lot of potential in this shift. I think the "groundbreaking" part is when it comes to mobile devices being able to run desktop applications when connected to a big screen and mouse/keyboard. I think it is pretty logical that ARM comes to Hololens as well. My sense is that they have struggled a lot with processing power vs. battery life and ARM could be the savior. Also, not having any WIN32 apps to support should make it fairly doable. I don't know if the announcement that full Windows can run on ARM makes such a big difference for wearables. But all of the attention on Windows IoT at WinHEC with support for Cortana, etc. could mean something for that category. Finally, there's a category which hasn't been talked about a lot in the Microsoft space and that is cars. If Home Hub is really coming, I hope that a "Car Hub" is too. Most of the platform capabilities necessary to support Home Hub also make a lot of sense in a car, i.e. Cortana, having a display, etc. And with self driving cars on the horizon you are going to want in-car productivity and entertainment. They talked a little bit about this at CES this year. My guess is they are working on this as well.
  • "as Microsoft still needs to do some work with Cortana before she's able to function only by voice" Yeah, like getting her to talk a few more languages, or letting us speak English to her everywhere!!!
  • This limitation seems rather odd not having given much attention first as this is core essential for having them similar league as Amazon Echo and Google Home. For years, we've been wanting this even on Windows Phone days to make Cortana speaks more especially in nice detail in every action and task, instead of just having you to lookup the screen. Heck even asking for calendar appointments are not always tells you what it is by voice.
  • A) she speaks more languages than alexa and google assistant!
    B) You can speak to her in english everywhere since the anniversary update. Region and Language aren't coupled to each other anymore.
  • But I don't want a non screen talky device. I want a device I can ask to show me something. Not repeat stuff to me so that I have to jot it down on a piece of paper S I walk out the door. Lol
  • I have had the same reservation about this from the beginning, and so far it's been proven in practice. It's great that Microsoft is trying to put Cortana everywhere. BUT, Cortana is like an ominipresent zombie.  Cortana isn't truly omniscient or omnipotent.  Walk into a room that has an Xbox, a tablet and a smartphone (and, now, possibly, appliances).  Cortana is active on each.  Now, you give a "Hey, Cortana" command.  Watch the frustrating chaose that ensues.  You can give a command and all the devices may respond, but not all of them know WHAT TO DO WITH the command.  The ones who DO will likely give you different responses.  It makes no sense to promote Cortana everywhere, telling us she needs to be active everywhere, when the REALITY is that when you say "Hey, Cortana" it's like being at the Foreman house and saying, "Hey, George".   You get a whole bunch of responses but they're all different and they don't know what each other is doing.  Microsoft has GOT to FIX the way Cortana works.  They need to figure out SOME way for Cortana to tell what device needs to actually respond to you and then the appropriate ACTION needs to take place quickly while all other devices go back to "sleep" or go back to what they were doing.  Until Microsoft figures out how to turn Cortana into Jarvis, for all practical purposes, what they are doing is mostly wasted effort that will only bring more chaos.
  • I know, they didn't bring you in to personally give them your thoughts and opinions so you need to go on your usual rant that makes no sense and is just a lot of meaningless words all to make yourself feel like you are more knowledgeable than everyone else.
  • but that particular point of his is valid.
  • Yes it is valid. Almost every day I tell my xbox's Cortana to turn up or down the volume, and i have to roll my eyes as my phone says "sorry, I can't do that". Microsoft needs to figure out a way to ensure only one device listens at a time.
  • I know...but i am replying to nohone😊
  • Don't let whatever emotional ties you've created with a person affect your judgement of content in context. Scuba, has a very valid point. I disagreed with a few things he's written in the past, but this, he is correct about.
  • I agree. If they can ever figure out how to make Skype properly sync between devices, maybe they can figure it how to do the same with Cortana. There's definitely a lot of room for improvement. This is why I don't use "hey Cortana" anymore.
  • The headless device such as Amazon Echo and Google Home is actually one of their attraction which is meant to be simple and looks like a piece of fixtures and less like a techy device computer. They are meant to blend on home environment that doesn't stick out too much. Having a device with screen is not bad, but it should be treated more like an additional feature rather than being there because there was a limitation to the system. Having voice-only interface allows these kid of devices used without having to look where the device is to look on content, which kinda defeats the purpose and why not just use the phone instead. Gladly, it seems by day one we will having something similar with the teased Harman/Kardon Cortana speaker. So it seems its all good. What would be nice to implement though is having the display-less speaker devices use any paired displays within the home to show visual content when needed. Pair with it such as Xbox, PC, phones and tablets, depending where the user wants it to show with a command "show me that in *device name*"
  • A great way to know where to answer a user would be the far field tech and then push it even further with high resolution IPS. excerpt from site explaining it - The Broadcom chip supports IPS through WiFi, Bluetooth, and even NFC. More importantly, though, the chip also ties in with other sensors, such as a phone’s gyroscope, magnetometer, accelerometer, and altimeter. Acting like a glorified pedometer, this Broadcom chip could almost track your movements without wireless network triangulation. It simply has to take note of your entry point (via GPS), and then count your steps (accelerometer), direction (gyroscope), and altitude (altimeter). Even if you didn't have your Bluetooth 5 phone on you the far field tech would likely be able to position you among the devices and allow the right device or closest one to hear you and respond.
  • Do we know if Project Evo will be an Intel processor exclusive? Or the Intel team is just a partner in the project? I would hope it's the latter because an ARM based Home Hub with far field communication would be perfect.
  • The argument I've heard from a lot of people against screens is that it will make the app developers lazy if everything can't be done by voice. While I agree with the sentiment, there are still a lot of things that just can't be done by voice. If we could do everything we needed with speech, we would still be a civilization of storytellers with no written history.
  • I am still having a hard time understanding what home hub is exactly. What does putting a start screen on my fridge or Cortana in my toaster do for me?
  • Order food for the fridge when you run out. Etc.
  • Wont buy it. My experience so far tells me MS will go through 2 or 3 versions of this, release better software for competing devices that have greater marketshare - then they will just close down all production of future versions. ANd that's if they make EVO into a device. If they leave it as just software, they will still enable MS services on competitor devices before EVO gets it so you are better off with ECHO.......
  • No thanks. I want a screened device. Not a talk at me device only. I guarantee you MS Home Hub will be Windows 10 only. It will require full OS. Not half children's OS like IOS or Android.
  • Microsoft seems to be blowing it yet again. The Amazon Echo is amazing, standalone, quick and doesn't need a PC.
  • It doesn't do it all though.  I'm all about these devices, including echo and google home, but if cortana streamlines it more, or shows up and runs on things already there in your house (fridge, thermostat, etc) and does everything echo/home can do, it eliminates the need for a stand alone device altogether. Like I just posted....sign me up for 2 cortana bases thermostats.  Like yesterday.
  • I would argue that the fact echo is a stand alone device is its weakes. How many Xbox's, tablets, laptops and pc's are already in the home. Why add another device when you can use the ones you have to do the same things?
  • I'd be all about a smart thermostat that doubles as a cortana assistant.  Would be absolutely PERFECT for my house where they are currently positioned.
  • Ecobee, make it happen.