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.

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