Most of the time, when we talk about Windows 10, we’re talking about the desktop variants of the operating system. (Windows 10 Mobile may not be technically be dead, but you’d practically need a mirror to see it breathing.) But Microsoft also has a variant of its operating system explicitly designed for the Internet of Things. It’s called Windows 10 IoT Core, and it’s been upgraded in the Windows 10 Creators Update to add full Cortana device support.
Before we talk about what’s new, let’s discuss the existing OS. Windows 10 IoT Core is aimed at devices with relatively low specs, at least compared with any other version of Windows. Microsoft has a list of devices compatible with the OS, shown below:
The Raspberry Pi 3 has a quad-core CPU based on ARM’s low-power, 64-bit Cortex-A53 core. This CPU is a successor to the earlier Cortex-A7 and is often used in smartphones in big.Little configurations. The Raspberry Pi 2 offers a 32-bit CPU with four quad-core A7s — not as powerful as the RBP3, but still reasonable for this segment. Intel’s Atom E3825 (dual-core, 1.33GHz) and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (quad-core, also 1.2GHz) round out the supported hardware configurations.
Cortana is available for all these systems, with some stipulations. You have to have a Microsoft Account, your device must have a display, and Microsoft has only certified a few microphones and speakers to work with its hardware. For mics, it works with the Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone, the Sound Tech CM-1000USB Table Top Conference Meeting Microphone with Omni-Directional Stereo, and the Microsoft LifeCam HD 3000 webcam. On the speaker side of the equation, only the Logitech S150 USB speakers are officially recommended. This doesn’t mean other hardware won’t work, just that MS hasn’t tested it.
Instructions on how to install the Creators Update and enable Cortana can be found on Microsoft’s websites. The site contains ideas for how to use Cortana in an IoT project, integrate it into a shipping product, or take more effective advantage of its capabilities as well. Capabilities include reminders, to-do lists, traffic and restaurant information. The device can be set to be voice-activated by saying “Hey Cortana,” and can leverage the Windows 10 audio stack and its support for linear microphone arrays as well. Users can also write custom extensions to Cortana to it to respond to specific local commands.
The more general question of why anyone would want to build Cortana into a project (or use Windows 10 for an IoT device) isn’t really addressed. Microsoft makes Windows 10 IoT Core available for free to anyone who wants it, so it’s hard to estimate how much market share the OS has right now.