Microsoft’s Home Hub Looks To Bring Cortana To The Kitchen

Posted on October 18, 2016 by Brad Sams in Hardware with 35 Comments


A few days back, I wrote about how the market for AI-driven computing is exploding, especially in the kitchen. Devices like the Amazon Echo and soon to be released Google Home, are delivering a new spin on what ‘computing’ can be like and now we are seeing evidence of Microsoft going down this path too.

The name ‘Home Hub’ has been spotted several times in various places across Microsoft documentation and now we have a bit more information about the device. Spotted by WalkingCat on Twitter, he found a user-profile on LinkedIn from a Microsoft employee that gives us new information about the device.

Starting in June of 2015, Guangjun Wang states he has been working on a “Home hub project aimed to build a smart kitchen based on the Microsoft’s Cortana and Azure Cloud.” Further, the device will use a mic array firmware from Cypress and Zigbee infrastructure to build the device.

It seems quite obvious how Microsoft could build a small headless PC that lives in the Kitchen and is powered by Cortana. Because the company has invested heavily in voice recognition and machine learning, this type of device is perfect for the kitchen and the fact that it can link to your smartphone, tablet, PC, and Xbox, offers it a competitive advantage.

One interesting thing that Microsoft could do with this device is allow it to work with Skype translator. Because this tool is growing in functionality and can translate conversations at a high-enough level to be useful, they could sell these devices to international hotel chains (or similar) to help travelers warm-up to local culture or make conversations easier between two users who do not speak the same language easier.

The key for Microsoft will be to deliver a product that is at least functionally on-par with every other device that exists today but then also add in cognitive abilities that they have developed to introduce more advanced features using its cloud infrastructure. As long as the price is right, Microsoft has a good chance of being able to deliver a differentiated product but it needs to ship sooner rather than later.

Seeing as there is an event next week in NYC, here’s to hoping they announce the device at that keynote.

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Comments (35)

35 responses to “Microsoft’s Home Hub Looks To Bring Cortana To The Kitchen”

  1. 125

    Not sure if I am willing to trust Microsoft with devices anymore. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions - in Micosoft's case - it's good devices. I forgave them for Zune - it's still the best darn mp3 player i've had - but "too late to market".

    Windows Phone 8 - great phone - my whole family uses them - same too late to market - while they haven't outright said it's dead - stick a fork in it - it's done. For all the cross platform development tools they have produced you think they could at least ported some of the apps to WP? Why should any developer out there use them if not even MS is going to try.

    Now it's Band being abandoned - (which thankfully I didn't buy).

    How am I to believe that they are going to make a market out of this thing when Amazon and Google already have stuff in the same space already - get ready for it - could it be Too late to market?

    Once to often to the altar for me... going to sit and wait and see if MS actually tries to market it this time.




    • 412

      In reply to jrswarr:

      I have to agree with you too. I am tired, make that, exhausted from being a Microsoft evangelist and enthusiast. I'm pretty much done. I converted a lot of my famiily to Microsoft Devices only to see them dead or dying and they come to me asking what happened? I already have a few Amazon Echo's, use Amazon Drive and have a Google Pixel XL on the way. While my PC world will still remain Windows oriented, I can't really get excited about using or embracing any new Microsoft product, no matter how nice it looks. 

    • 4259

      In reply to jrswarr:

      After the Band thing I told my wife not to allow me to buy anymore Microsoft hardware and to remind me of the gigantic list of things they've left me hanging on.

    • 1266

      In reply to jrswarr:

      I have to agree with you on this one.  I too fear Microsoft dipping its toe in the waters only to produce a great product and then getting shy and backing out after I've plunked down $200 for it.  Ugh, not sure if I am willing to follow MS into the kitchen on this one.

  2. 1792

    Zune, Windowsphone, Band, now Home Hub. Microsoft fans have been bitten before by the consumer ambitions of Microsoft. As it has a business and enterprise strategy led by the CEO it's hard to believe this is serious. Most consumers would look to Amazon and Google for this kind of device.

    Of course it is a good thing for Microsoft but with the usual zero marketing, zero promotion and poor understanding of the consumer market they may struggle unless they go all in. 

    One other issue they face. Device integration. With few people using a Windowsphone and Cortana for Android being "US Only" the Cortana assistant is not everywhere. 

    I would expect a Microsoft home hub to be a "US Only" product anyway.

  3. 1829

    I think this being able to connect to an Xbox One or an Xbox "Stick" (as I mentioned to you on Twitter Brad) or bundle them ($100 for both) would do be good. I would buy that instead of buying another Kinect when Scorpio comes out. It will show much more integration. The next step for their algorithms is understanding who is talking when spoken to.

  4. 127

    So after Amazon and Google, now MS might bring one of these devices to the market. What do these companies do? Sit together and decide the time is right?

    Anyway, I hope we hear more on the 26th. Would love one of these devices!!! Ok, maybe two or three....

    • 4563

      In reply to Bart:

      It would be nice to actually give Cortana a life. With all the emphasis Microsoft is putting in AI and translation having it trapped inside a PC is not helping. I use my echo x10 more than my Cortana because how easy and available it is to use. I would like to use Cortana on my xbox but I need to yell at my kinect or put the headset on. The time to release the Home Hub or Cortana Hub is now.

  5. 4282

    Prediction: Microsoft will release one or two versions. A small dedicated base will love it, but it won't catch on with the masses due to lack of proper marketing and support. Microsoft will cancel it citing a renewed focus on core competencies.

    I'll save myself the trouble of being abandoned by not buying one.

    I don't want this to be true, I just suspect it will be.

  6. 5553

    Never answer...on the First Ring ?

  7. 5554

    Microsoft a day late and a dollar short as usual.  Nobody's looking for a Cortana knockoff of Echo or Google Home.  

    Sorry to say, MS has lost the consumer.

    • 1294

      In reply to PeteB:

      This thing is now out yet, and I'm already getting sick of Cortana.  Not a day goes by where I'm watching a movie and my computer goes "Sorry, I couldn't understand that" 

      I think the only reason why I would consider buying something like this, is if it had an actual holographic image of the Cortana from Halo 4, then again for that the price would probably be way too high

  8. 6958

    This won't wokr unless the 3rd Party support is moved to the back end, like the Echo Actions.

  9. 5553

    Daniel Rubino has a podcast interview with designer of Elite x3 phone...fascinating. 

    • And there was no charge to listen.
  10. 5394

    Home Hub is not a catchy name. They might be premature calling it a "hub". They should stick with Xbox and just extend its functions in the living room.

  11. 5553

    Bill Belichick went on a long-winded rant trashing the tablets Microsoft paid the NFL $400 million to use LOL

    • 15

      In reply to Joe_Blo:

      I am sure they will be "sunset" it soon enough, and no doubt Paul and Sam will than tell us it makes sense because after all Microsoft is software company.  Paul will than toss in that his was a piece of junk anyhow.

  12. 5539

    I would have a Cortana assitant in my house. I have an XBox one S. Of course I would have to buy a Kinect, ($100), and an adapter to connect it ($40). I opted for an Echo Dot ($50). I have a hard time believing MS will have a comparable, competatively priced device, and market and support it. Zune, PPC, WP, MCE, Windows Home Server and Band user. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me 6 times...well, I'm an idiot.

  13. 5553

    Ah avocado oil...first glance thought Alexa was getting drunk on wine.

  14. 5542

    Like the other two will it be collecting data for marketing purposes was well?   If so NO THANKS!

  15. 6844

    If they don't release something soon it will be like mobile all over again. Here's hoping they learned that lesson.

  16. 214

    Yup. Interested. My home-cook avocation could use a pinch of technology, no doubt. It's hard - no, make that pretty much impossible - to use a touchscreen, mouse, keyboard or any other hand-operated I/O device when I'm up to my elbows in some ingredient. Voice control makes tons of sense and would be a welcome technology extension - at the right price/performance point.

    As others mentioned in response to your earlier post, applications beyond the kitchen come to mind. Perhaps this is but an initial proof-of-concept with broader potentials.

    But if it works in the kitchen - I want one.


  17. 5349

    Integrate wifi range extender and I'd buy one for each floor of my house.

  18. 399

    Microsoft could build a small headless PC

    Or they could build the functionality and leave it to partners like HP and Dell to make the hardware.


    • 127

      In reply to maethorechannen:

      Let MS set the standard in build quality, then let OEM's run with it. Much like Surface

      • 399

        In reply to Bart:

        I was thinking more like Hololens than Surface. I doubt there's a market for an Echo-like device priced with a Surface premium, unless it could do something really unique and useful, like multiple person recognition so it would know whose calendar to add an event to. And even then I think it would be better if it was made by Microsoft's traditional partners and not MS itself.

  19. 5234

    "It seems quite obvious how Microsoft could build a small headless PC that lives in the Kitchen and is powered by Cortana. Because the company has invested heavily in voice recognition and machine learning, this type of device is perfect for the kitchen and the fact that it can link to your smartphone, tablet, PC, and Xbox, offers it a competitive advantage."

    They could do this with a Raspberry Pi 2/3.  But they're too short-sighted and unwilling to do it.

    Perhaps you're seeing the real side of Microsoft now: if it doesn't improve their enterprise business, it isn't worth doing.

  20. 4563

    A device like this could also be used as an input microphone to xbox voice commands. Currently you need to own a kinect or use the headset. It would be nice to let's say put my Home Hub  in xbox control mode and then have it pipe all instructions to xbox.

  21. 5530

    i'm not sure if Microsoft would find success with such a product, but I think we all agree, if they want to have even a chance at it, they need to ship something very soon.

  22. 6012

    Once again the market will be cornered by Google/Apple/Amazon before MS puts something on the shelf. Sure it might be a better product but will it really matter?

  23. 6956

    And in June 2018, after selling millions of units and not being updated for five months, Satya Nadella will kill it, and then wonder why they can't get a foothold in the consumer market.

    • 4563

      In reply to AlexKven:

      Nadella is not stupid. If they think they have a chance in the market they will pile on.  It is still early on in this new game but they need a product out this year.