Microsoft Planning Home Invasion

With Windows 8, Microsoft is already trying to blur the lines between operating systems on pocket, portable, and desktop devices. Now it is working on an operating system for your entire home.

The company has published a research document (PDF) on an ongoing project to make a system named HomeOS. There’s no sign of a commercial release, but the company has been working on it for a couple of years and has already tested it in real homes, suggesting it is taking the idea seriously.

The concept itself is hardly new: it’s simply the idea that most electronic devices and features in your home be centrally controlled. Put simply, in the same way that a printer or game console can currently be connected to your router and main computer, HomeOS is designed to add devices such as lighting and air conditioning systems. For example, your computer could automatically switch on lighting as a security measure at sunset, having checked your location and the date.

Microsoft hasn’t revealed whether the system itself is based on Windows, though it mentioned that the kernel is “agnostic” about which devices can be added. The idea is to have a main PC as the hub of the system, with the possibility to add device-specific applications through an app store system.

Students working on the project have already created applications such as a security camera that e-mails you a photograph taken at your door if it is opened at a time you aren’t normally home.

The main goal is to make the operating system smart enough that it can control any devices, regardless of the manufacturer or the technology involved. If that works, homeowners could then add any device without having to worry about compatibility and being locked in to a single manufacturer.

Another aim is to make it possible to have more control over a device than comes by default, for example by having different restrictions in place at different times. This could involve, for example, having different default options for a device based on facial recognition, such as switching a music system to a particular station depending on who enters a room.

It all sounds great in principle, but in practice I’m sure I’m not alone in imaging viruses and blue screens of death playing even greater havoc in our daily lives.

13 Responses to Microsoft Planning Home Invasion

  1. HomeOS? Really?? What happens when this Windows does the usual Blue/Black Screen of Death? No entry into your own home? Do the cops get called in the event? Do the EMTs get called when it gets a virus/worm/trojan?

    • You use a key, like normal people? Also, I've only had a BSoD like… never, I don't think (not counting ME's special BSoD), or almost rarely enough for me to forget, I don't know what everyone else does to their damn computers, and I definitely don't want to know what you're gonna do to your HomeOS enabled house.

      • The computer I built myself, surprisingly, has had maybe one BSOD if any. My old Toshiba laptop and other retail machines I've worked on, all the damn time. I get you, though. Some computers have so many problems it's ridiculous. Lots of user created problems.

  2. Well, they did got a great thing going with that Windows table (or whatever its name was) and Bill Gates used to live in a sort-of-automated mansion bak in the 90's so…

  3. Waste of electricity. Why would you want to run an laptop or desktop consuming multiple watts of power when there are more energy sipping ways of automating your home. The desktop computer might make for a great interface for programming purposes on everything but even sleeping it consumes too much juice via it's power supply.

  4. They make these amazing plug adapter things with timers that switch your lights on whenever you want. Pretty sure those cost about 1/1000th of the "HomeOS".

  5. "…a security camera that e-mails you a photograph taken at your door if it is opened at a time you aren’t normally home."

    I'd rather not have Microsoft knowing when I'm normally home.

  6. You don't necessarily have to have a security camera tie into it, its just an option. Also, they would not record what specific times you are home on a central database, but in the privacy of your own home. That being said, make sure you have a good firewall, that way ppl don't hack your house. Yes they do have automatic timers for lights and such, but let's say you aren't expecting to be away from home. You can access your lighting from any smartphone, or lets say you want to stop at your house for a quick cup of coffee. Have coffee beans in the machine, and start the machine remotely. Its just giving you greater access to options that were dreamed in the 90's and being fullfilled soon.

  7. HomeOS? It was only a matter of time till someone who hasn't used a PC since 1998 comes in here spouting off about BSoD. If you have had a BSoD in the last five years, you are terrible with computers, and I group you with old people.

    • perhaps a bit more… sardonic and mean than I would have gone with, but yeah, I agree with the general sentiment.

  8. Yes, I had some BSoDs as recently as 1 year ago and on a modern quadcore running 7 – faulty hardware still does that to you sometimes. well the issue has been found and fixed now…
    and Yes, regarding stability Microsoft has come a long way in the last 10 years or so. Full BSoDs are very rare, what however still happens are software-snafus taking down single programs or services. So it may be not the whole OS, the service providing the interface to your home hardware dying and locking your home up in a inhospitable state could still be rather inconvenient…

    The basic idea is however neither new nor surprising. Kind of the next logical step: we already have our lives run by computers, so why shouldn’t we have our homes run by computers? The technology also isn’t exactly new. Bill Gates had his automated home back in the 90’s and you could buy the same technology right now directly off the shelf – sure, it wouldn’t be standardized or cheap, but if you want it, you can buy it. If you want it cheap, you’ll need some programming-skills, a few micro-controllers, a USB-wire and leave your computer running 24/7, but then you even could DIY it…

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