When Microsoft revealed Windows Hello last year, I figured that the firm and its hardware partners would deliver compatible peripherals for existing PCs in time for 2015 holiday season at the latest. That didn’t happen, and over a year later there are still no mainstream Windows Hello hardware peripherals available. What gives?
It’s been over a year since I wrote my first Windows Hello “hands-on” article. As I noted at the time, Windows Hello enables Windows 10 to recognize you and allow you into your computing devices more easily than with a password. So Windows Hello is an evolution of the simpler sign-in capabilities that Microsoft first added to Windows 8. In that release, you could sign-in with a 4-digit PIN or a picture password, where you would draw a few unique squiggles on a touch screen displaying a favorite photo. (Windows has also long supported smart cards for dual-factor authentication, but this technology is generally relegated to enterprise users.)
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In Windows 10, these capabilities are extended to three new Windows Hello-based sign-in types
Fingerprint press. Here, you press your finger to a sensor as you do on smart phones like the iPhone or Nexus 6P, and authentication is particularly accurate and fast.
Facial scan. Using a special kind of camera with IR sensors, Windows 10 scans your entire face to authenticate you.
Iris (eye) scan. Using a special kind of camera, Windows 10 scans your eye to authenticate you.
What each of these capabilities has in common is that they require new hardware—a new kind of fingerprint sensor, though Windows Hello does also work with older “swipe”-type sensors, or new kinds of cameras. And, as you might expect, these new hardware devices have been appearing in new PCs, tablets, and phones since Windows 10 launched last July.
What hasn’t happened is the expected release of first- and third party hardware peripherals that enable Windows Hello functionality on existing computers—e.g. PCs running older Windows versions that are upgraded to Windows 10—or, for that matter, for new Windows 10 PCs that do not ship with Windows Hello capabilities.
This is surprising.
You may argue that it’s deliberate, but I don’t buy that. Microsoft should be offering Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint readers, at the least, on its keyboards and even mice. But regardless of Microsoft’s intentions, surely the wider world of PC peripheral makers—Logitech, and so on—would step up and provide these devices. Surely.
They have not. And I cannot explain that. The 2015 holiday selling season came and went with no mainstream Windows Hello devices having been announced or delivered. At this past week’s hardware-focused Computext trade show, we did see one mention of Windows Hello, where a tiny company no one has ever heard of (MouseComputer, from Japan) announced an infrared USB camera with Windows Hello facial recognition capabilities. Exciting.
Right now, the only real-world Windows Hello hardware peripherals I am aware of come from Intel, and those devices are development kits, not end-user products. There’s nothing stopping you from buying one. But what the heck.
Anyway, the question remains. Where are all the Windows Hello peripherals?