Intel hedges its bets as Microsoft targets Amazon Echo

8 Dec 2016

Windows 10. Image: Shutterstock/Anton Watman

Soon after partnering with Amazon for smart home projects, Intel has now joined up with Microsoft’s attempts to outdo the Echo.

Last week, Amazon and Intel paired up for a “tremendous opportunity” in smart homes, putting Alexa-like capabilities into more companies’ hands. This was, essentially, broadening the future scope of the Echo.

However, Intel clearly sees room for more than one home helper, now deepening its ties with Microsoft to help Windows 10 infiltrate the living room.


Project Evo will see the duo push Cortana on Windows 10 through to 2017 PCs, creating a more hands-free relationship between customers and tech.

Far-field communication and voice activation, new security capabilities, mixed reality, and new gaming capabilities are the four areas to be developed, though it’s the former which is most interesting.

Much like the Amazon Echo, instead of having to walk up to a PC to communicate with Cortana, customers will be able to simply speak normally from across a room when this partnership comes to fruition.

Obviously, software and hardware improvements are needed for this, with tech journalist Paul Thurrott reporting that saying “Hey Cortana” will wake the computer up when in standby mode.

Biometric features for Windows Hello, spatial audio and HDR support will be utilised, with head-mounted displays coming on stream, too.

According to a recent report by Berg Insights, 91m homes in Europe and North America will be smart by 2020. By that, the fourth report in this field means they will have a smart home system using an app or web portal as a user interface.

Add in hardware like headsets, and it’s clear that Intel is backing two horses at once. For example, in August, Intel followed the release of Oculus Rift and Vive from rival manufacturers with one of its own.

In an attempt to distinguish it from its competitors, Project Alloy will be an all-in-one device.

This means that all of the tech typically spread over a number of devices – such as the sensors, camera and human-input controls – will be located entirely within the headset.

Combining its hardware with Microsoft’s software, so, makes sense.

With regard to the home assistance field, Amazon Echo clearly leads the way, explaining the reason behind Intel’s recent partnership on that side.

The duo are combining to create two “technology initiatives”, enabling Amazon’s Alexa Skills to remotely control and coordinate device actions with an Intel-based smart home hub, as well as providing a design for a smart speaker, again sporting Alexa’s goods.

There is probably plenty of room for more than one home assistance giant, with Google enjoying its own early stage research in this area.

For Intel however, partnering with Microsoft and Amazon means it’s probably backed at least one of the right horses.

Windows 10. Image:Anton Watman/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic