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Why most of us will miss out on Windows Hello, Windows 10's facial recognition feature

Mark Hachman | June 25, 2015
The expensive depth cameras needed to make it a reality will appear on high-end PCs, but not across the board.

Hello also hasn't come up in conversations with PC vendors, which is telling. The launch of Windows 10 at the end of July will nearly coincide with back-to-school PC sales, so if ever there were a time to talk up Hello, it would be in this timeframe. 

"I think the ecosystem around the [infrared] camera isn't quite there yet, and we're all sort of struggling to sort out the meaning of that," said Jeff Barney, the vice president and general manager of Toshiba America's PC business, in an interview. Analysts, who have spoken to rivals including Dell and Hewlett-Packard, say they've received similar responses. Lenovo, meanwhile, is essentially charging $100 for the Hello depth camera.

In some sense, the chatter about Windows Hello is reminiscent of the arguments against smartwatches: How much are you willing to pay to avoid pulling your phone from your pocket? The best smartwatches provide capabilities your phone does not, including sleep monitoring, for example. So far, Hello hasn't provided that added value.

"Hello indeed seems to be falling upmarket," Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said in an email. "Think it was Lenovo who announced two devices--one at a price premium over the other--and the main difference was the presence of a Hello-compatible camera. While it adds convenience, I'm not sure consumers will be willing to pay that--and I'm not sure that enterprises will buy into the reliability/security of it until proven over time."

Supposedly, the technology works wonderfully. Microsoft has shown a Windows 10 PC waking up nearly instantaneously using a depth camera, with no password required. And you might think of Hello as the equivalent of a TV's remote control, or a car's remote key fob--both conveniences that you'd be loath to give up.

Still, a television, and especially a car, are far pricier than the low-end PCs that consumers are increasingly turning to. But all isn't lost: This fall, Intel will debut its Skylake processor, the centerpiece of the company's wire-free future. That will be the second act for the PC in 2015 alone--and another opportunity for Microsoft and PC vendors to introduce Hello to their audience.

In a year or two, Hello may evolve into a beloved component of Windows 10. Right now, however, Microsoft's finding it difficult to drum up support in the PC community. 


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