Microsoft is baking in tighter integration between Windows 10 and third-party digital assistants such as Alexa, the helpful AI that is found in many of Amazon's products (such as its Echo speaker line). The latest test build of Windows 10 19H2 (18362.10005) features a change to enable digital assistants like Alexa to be voice activated from the Lock screen.
This test build is available to Windows Insiders who are subscribed to the Slow ring. These typically entail more polished builds than the ones that first show up in the Fast ring, and features they contain are more likely to end up in the final release that gets doled out to the public.
In this case, the final release is the next major upgrade to Windows 10, codenamed 19H2, which as the name implies is due out in the second half of this year. Overall, it's expected this will be a smaller update than past upgrades—more akin to a Service Pack in the days of old.
Adding access to a digital assistant from the Lock screen is not a game changer in a broad sense, but it sure can be more convenient than having to first log into Windows. This is also mostly a play towards freeing up Alexa—no other major AI assistants (Siri, Google Assistant, and to an extent, Bixby) are directly available in Windows 10.
Beyond the tighter integration with third-party assistants (Alexa), the latest test build contains only a few other minor things, such as a fix to allow OEMs to reduce the inking latency based on the hardware capabilities of their devices.
One thing to note is that the added features are turned off by default in the latest test build.
"As mentioned previously, we may ship features in these updates turned off by default and turn them on via controlled feature rollouts. Doing this helps us gain better feedback on overall build quality. With today’s 19H2 build, we are testing this experience. Our plan is to quickly follow-up with another 19H2 build that turns these features on for a subset of Insiders and proceed from there based on feedback and quality," Microsoft says.
The 19H2 update will likely arrive to PCs at large around September or October of this year. It will be the second major update to Windows 10 in 2019, the previous one being the May 2019 Update. Microsoft's goal is to dish out two major upgrades to Windows 10 each year, while simultaneously issuing security patches on the second Tuesday of every month (known as Patch Tuesday).