With Windows 8.1, Microsoft Wants To Own The Kitchen, As Well As The Living Room And The Office

Microsoft is adding a bunch of new things to Windows 8.1, as the first part of its “rapid release” plan for its desktop OS. One aspect of the update is the new Food and Drink app for Windows 8, which is all about those two things, as you might’ve guessed. It’s a small addition, but one that uses a fairly ingenious interface gimmick to really make using it in the kitchen environment easier.

The Food and Drink app provides easy access to recipes, ingredients, grocery lists and more, but it also uses your device’s camera to operate a hands-free mode that lets you scroll through recipe steps with swipe gestures that don’t require touching the actual screen. It’s like the no-touch gestures built into Samsung’s latest Galaxy S4 smartphone, but built for a specific use case where someone might actually, you know, want to use it. Messy hands covered in egg, flour or salmonella don’t mix with touchscreen devices, after all.

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 12.49.42 PMOn its own, this seems like a fairly small app addition to Windows 8, but the bigger picture here is that Microsoft is building kitchen-friendly features into its primary OS, which is in turn a good candidate to power not only a range of tablet and other devices, but also potentially connected home gadgets like fridges and more somewhere down the line. So far, there hasn’t been much in terms of adoption of Windows 8 in those kinds of appliances, but Microsoft is set to start pushing into more intelligent system integration with Windows Embedded through 2013.

Whether in consumer tablets or “dual purpose devices,” as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called the Surface and its ilk on stage today, Windows 8’s new food and drink focused features illustrate a desire for whole-home domination, and MS isn’t leaving it to third-party developers to make that happen.