back to article Microsoft’s ‘Home Hub’ probably isn’t even hardware at all

Microsoft isn’t in a rush to follow Amazon and Google by planting a pair of creepy listening ears in your living room, disguised as a robot buddy. Microsoft’s fabled “Home Hub” may not even be hardware at all. But you can see why tongues are wagging. Given the success of Amazon’s Echo speaker, and with Google launching a me- …

  1. AMBxx Silver badge

    New business opportunity

    With Amazon, Google et al producing pointless home gadgets, I bring you .... the Duster.

    1. Mr_Pitiful

      Re: New business opportunity

      Quote "With Amazon, Google et al producing pointless home gadgets, I bring you .... the Duster"

      What's wrong with my Dacia Duster?

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: New business opportunity

      "the Duster"

      Leave it to Microsoft. The first product they introduce that doesn't suck is a vacuum cleaner.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another MS me too

    That makes 3 in a month or so.

    Not sure how to spell innovation, but it certainly hasn't got MS in it anymore.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another MS me too

      And when did it have it?

    2. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: Another MS me too

      Microsoft was successful mostly because they weren't innovative. They ruled the business and home markets because you could sit down at any Windows-based machine and get running immediately. They would watch their competitors, learn from their mistakes, and then put out a product that addressed those problems and fit into the MS ecosystem.

      They were much like a wolf hunting a rabbit, only running fast enough to keep their prey in sight and wanting for the opportune moment to strike. Now they are trying to out-run the rabbit and are getting hit with obstacles that would have been avoided if they paid attention.

  3. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    The watch, although there isn't really a market for them, made sense - buy a windows phone, buy a windows watch. They gave up on windows mobile, so they gave up on the watches.

    This seems like it will be built into Xboxes. I wonder if they'll rebrand that next iteration with a less games-console name.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Apart from the watch also works on iOS and Android.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Yes of course it does, but the point is that consumers (I assume at least) tend to prefer accessories to devices made by the devices manufacturer as they assume it will work better.

        I know I'd expect a Microsoft Watch to work with a Microsoft Phone better than a third party watch.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      MS Watch

      They had some sort of Watch product in USA long ago. Did it use messages over SCA on FM Radio?

      I remember they had a Tablet in maybe 2003.

      Anyone remember "Plays for Sure"?

      I still have a Microsoft Keyboard here, though I don't use any of the round multimedia buttons on it.

      Why did the Xbox after the XBox 360 be called an Xbox One? Why was it an Xbox and 360?

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: MS Watch

        The Play station "3" was out, thus "Xbox 2" would not have been a working marketing campaign. Nintendo dropped out (long ago?) from such a race, but we can assume keeping 3 and or higher in the name was to try and show consumers the level of the product.

        "One" was to try and show how it was a reboot I guess, as trying to pull a 360 again and emulate the "Playstation 4" name would be too obvious a trick.

      2. HandleAlreadyTaken

        Re: MS Watch

        That would be the SPOT watch; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_Personal_Objects_Technology. I used to have one of those, made by Fossil; useful enough, but it became redundant when smartphones showed up. I believe that's the product the Net Micro Framework was initially developed for.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      XBOX, Play Halo

      Could be useful

  4. M.Zaccone

    What would be the point?

    Given their recent form, Microsoft would just drop the product three months after introducing it.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: What would be the point?

      They follow Google's lead then? But in fairness, Google waits a few years before dropping it.

  5. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Just what I need !

    Yet another thing spying on me in the comfort of my own home...

    1. 404 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Just what I need !

      Or a business opportunity to develop a Tony Stark-type Jarvis that will defend your stuff instead of telling the world you like to dress up like an Ewok certain times of the year... Just a thought.

      ;)

  6. Buzzword

    Given the success of Amazon’s Echo speaker?

    I fell for the hype and bought one. In the absence of any other "smart" devices in the house, the Echo is is just a voice-controlled jukebox. I'm not sure that qualifies as a huge success.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Given the success of Amazon’s Echo speaker?

      In the absence of any other "smart" devices in the house, the Echo is is just a voice-controlled jukebox

      The success depends on what Amazon want to achieve. As you use it, it probably encourages media consumption, and you've paid money for it, That would seem to be successful for Amazon?

    2. jason 7

      Re: Given the success of Amazon’s Echo speaker?

      Yes ditto. I got mine on release and whilst I was quite excited...it now just sits as a voice activated digital radio/jukebox.

      The UK launch was a bit of a disappointment really. Still cant add Championship football teams to it.

      1. Professor Clifton Shallot

        Re: Given the success of Amazon’s Echo speaker?

        "Still cant add Championship football teams to it."

        It never knows the score in the cricket either.

        Still I like it as a jukebox and it is brilliant as a kitchen timer too if you are a messy cook like me.

        I'd like some openness between the various ecosystems too - play Google Play Music on Alexa or iTunes music on Google's toy but I guess we can forget that because it's only good for the customer.

        1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: Given the success of Amazon’s Echo speaker?

          "It never knows the score in the cricket either."

          Neither do many humans. I was once in a pub with a colleague and I asked if they could make out the (cricket) score on the TV. The answer was something like three six four slash five.

  7. spudmasterflex
    Coat

    Cortana

    Cortana, how high is mount Fuji?

    Sorry I cant reply now as im updating to windows 10 millennial edition.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Cortana

      Hikers have dropped an estimated 1 tonne of LSD while walking on mount Fuji. So the answer is, very fucking high...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cortana

      Just tried it. Apparently it's 12388 ft.

      Note I did turn the microphone on first then turn it off afterwards (hardware switch). I can't imagine why people would tolerate a live microphone like "Echo" listening to "everything" in their home. Whilst I don't have many illusions of "privacy" these days (e.g. unlike some on this forum I'm happy to use Windows 10 and Cortana) I'm not going to bug my own home 24x7.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cortana

      "Cortana, how high is mount Fuji?"

      It'll probably open a bing search page containing the sentence in microsoft edge. It is the answer of most of the questions asked to it.

  8. mmeier

    Maybe a new "Windows Home Server" running their excellent (and likely Dragon Natural based) offline speech recognition is coming. After all MS IS producing computers now. Then link the various MS devices your WHS using household will likely have to that (They are on the AD and network already anyway at that point) and use that (And use it as a sales feature to get WHS boxes in-House, killing a Penguin or three). Spreads the processor load (The Surface/Pro will run the Software locally, the phone will use the WHS and so on) and allows for a central box at the same time.

    Sounds like something I might buy as a replacement for my aging NAS.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Pint

      AD for the home user?

      {Shudder}

      Please say that this is not so?

      Hmm. Can windows 10 Home join a domian? Isn't that for Pro and above? Well it was BW10 (Before Windows 10)

      I might need a few of these tonight (see Icon) to compensate

      1. mmeier

        Re: AD for the home user?

        Can't say for W10/Home (I have the Pro-Version running) and joining AD domans. But if MS builds another WHS - why not use a "hidden" AD domain (With a nice, simplified UI) for this? No need for exposing all the capabilities to the end user nor is telling them needed. If MS does a "bundle" (Let's call it Surface/Homeserver) they can add some NFC/BT/Whatever based hardware for "auto registration" of new network devices and a simple UI from the store to enter the data on the device.

        Hiding complex stuff is the idea of most developments in the Win10 UI. May not be useful in more complex stuff like a company network. But to network 2-3 tablet pc and 3-5 mobiles it would be "good enough".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: AD for the home user?

          You can't connect to AD (including Azure AD) from Windows 10 Home (We have some Surface 3 devices that originally came with W10 Home and upgraded them to Pro once we confirmed they couldn't) - A simplified version that runs behind the scenes could obviously work, not sure how Home Group works (never used it)

          1. Mage Silver badge

            Re: AD for the home user?

            Home version of any Windows = Crippled Windows.

            Yet many small and larger businesses buy Windows Home to "save money".

          2. P. Lee Silver badge

            Re: AD for the home user?

            I'll go out on a limb and suggest a windows (live?) account is probably AD - just not your AD.

            MS, having gone for the slurp, has little incentive to let you (a consumer who doesn't spend) have your own infrastructure away from their prying eyes.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: AD for the home user?

        "Can windows 10 Home join a domian? Isn't that for Pro and above?"

        you've already "joined a domain" with that micro-shaft 'cloud' logon [and its HORRIBLE EULA] using your REAL e-mail address, visible to anyone staring over your shoulder during the login. 'Got spam' ?

        oh, that's not good enough? pay more money for 'Pro and above'.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: mmeier

      ".....They are on the AD and network already....." For those that have failed to notice, M$ has a neat tool in Win10 called Microsoft Family Features that allows you to group your home PCs, phones and Xboxes into one cloud-based "organization" that the family admin can then control and configure online. It wouldn't take much for M$ to expand that into a more active form of domain control for administration of an IoT setup, and as it is cloud-based the controlling software can be expanded and developed without the need to do much to the PC OS or IoTs' OSs.

  9. Doc Ock

    Time to learn Navajo so none of these spying devices can understand a word I say.

    1. joed

      Just keep mumbling. Imagine all this AI neural net brainstorming going on to figure you out. A brownout in Redmond is mission accomplished.

      1. Doc Ock
        IT Angle

        >Just keep mumbling. Imagine all this AI neural net brainstorming going on to figure you out. A brownout in Redmond is mission accomplished.

        I have no idea what you are trying to say but this is why I was referring to Navajo:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_talker#Navajo_code_talkers

        The Navajo code is the only spoken military code never to have been deciphered

        1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          If you're in the US

          They'll decide you're speaking Arabic which remember they don't understand and send the Trump Troopers around "just in case".

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Francis Boyle Re: If you're in the US

            "....Arabic which remember they don't understand...." Ignoring the fact that the CIA reputedly employs more Arabic (all five regional dialects, and Farsi) speakers than any other government organistaion in the Western hemisphere, if your buddy Snowden is to be believed then the NSA also has automated eavesdropping tools that can understand all forms of Arabic without the need for a fleshy translator.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Joke

        "A brownout in Redmond is mission accomplished."

        like what happens when you flush ALL of the toilets at once in a large building. yeah, never done THAT with a coordinated effort (in high school) with walkie talkies [or cell phones on a conference call], right?

        just avoid the bottom floor [or two] unless you're wearing waterproof clothing. Sorta re-defines the term "brownout" doesn't it?

    2. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      Or just stay drunk all the time. Even if they understand the words it still wont make an a'porth of sense. And have the added benefit of making much of the world bearable, until you keel over permanently.

  10. gypsythief

    ...and it supports eight languages...

    Well ah'm tellin' thi now, it down't support Yorkshire. Anythin' ah ses to it, ah allus get t'response "I'm sorry, I didn't understand that Dave. Let me get Bing for you"

    Now ah've know idea who this Bing lass is, but she aint ever found me nowt neither.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: ...and it supports eight languages...

      It isn't worth teaching it Yorkshire for the same reason as Russian... neither want to spend money on software.

  11. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    low-key?

    "Echo itself was a spontaneous and low-key product released with almost no marketing beyond the Amazon store-front."

    Almost no marketing beyond a front-and-centre splash on almost certainly *the* most visited shopping web-site on the planet? A location that, moreover, probably isn't even for sale to non-Amazon advertisers, no matter how deep your pockets are.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: low-key?

      Exactly

      Amazon are pushing it like mad or as equally as much as that TV series made by James May and pals.

      TV Ads featuring Clarkson flying drones over the Channel

      Email Ads for Echo

      Echo appearing on the screen when going to Amazon.co.uk.

      not advertising it? If this is not advertising it then I'd have to have to suffer when it is 'advertised'.

    2. danieltharris

      Re: low-key?

      They definitely won't let you purchase that spot for any amount - They'll even remove competing products if they decide the product doesn't support enough of Amazon's services....Apple TV as an example.

  12. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    Amazon Echo, Google Home

    "Amazon’s Echo as just the kind of "crazy hardware experiment"

    Actually just plain evil and creepy.

    Also Amazon's landing page pushes THEIR locked down Fire Tablets, crippled version of Android (no wonder they have over 30% growth on those), the Amazon Echo and the button thing. No wonder they sell.

    Not only that, it appears on the list of stuff you are interested in under a product page, supposedly based on your browsing.

    Amazon's marketing of their own products on Amazon is getting obnoxious. Now they want Indie eBook publishers to spend money on advertising campaigns on Amazon. KDP Select is evil too, gives Amazon a monopoly on selling content.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Actually just plain evil and creepy.

      Oh bless, you live in such a cosy cossetted world that you believe a microphone is 'evil'. Yep, Amazon Echo and FaceBook will in future history be listed alongside Hitler, Stalin and Trump.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    *Bootnote*

    Little need to add Bengali/Hindi support. There's very little paying customer base of MS among Bengali speakers. Most Indians MS users aren't interested in something like Cortana, those who are interested knows English very well(Cortana supports Indian English). Arabic support should come as many Asian and African countries use this. language. So as Russian.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: *Bootnote*

      Don't know how many born in the Soviet block and remembering life back then will welcome a always listening device... but who knows? People are strange animals.

      Nor Putin will like a non Putin-controlled listening device...

  14. Jon B

    Cortana Steller Voice recognition?

    I find Cortana pretty cruddy compared to googles voice recognition, specifically the ability to convert what you are saying into recognisable sentences, whereas Cortana likes sticking in random words that don't make sense in the overall context of the sentence.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Re: Cortana Steller Voice recognition?

      I find Google's voice recognition perform exceptionally well in noisy environments. I've had it recognise simple commands in situations where the traffic noise was so bad I couldn't make out my phone's reply.

  15. Spudley

    Am I the only one who suspects that BT might have an issue with Microsoft launching a product named the "Home Hub"?

  16. steve.bradley@ctsltd.net

    As a Microsoft Band owner (I actually found the Band 2 to be great except for the fact I have had to send the thing back FIVE times and it is broken yet again so I have given up) I will limit my purchases of Microsoft hardware to just mice and keyboards - that they can just about manage. Anything else they seem to get a bit bored of and then leave the faithful/gullible hanging/seriously out of pocket.

  17. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    "But not Hindi, Arabic, Bengali or Russian,"

    Having worked at Microsoft*, I find it ironic it doesn't work with those languages since the vast majority of dev work is performed by outsourcing / body shops in India and Indonesia with a lot of the Senior Devs coming out of Russia after the fall of the USSR. Not too many Bengali folk, but they at least out-number Americans by a wide margin.

    [*] I was young and stupid at the time, I didn't know any better...

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