• 05.01.12

Microsoft HomeOS: An Operating System For The Home

The newest attempt at creating the “smart house” isn’t just about turning your lights on with your phone. Microsoft is creating an entire app store of user-designed software to make where you live more programmable.

Look around. How many electronic and wirelessly controlled devices are around you? The spaces where we live and work are increasingly hooked up to an array of devices–wireless routers, smartphones, laptops, smart air conditioning systems, light systems, and more. A number of companies have stepped in to provide solutions for this. Control4 sells a system that allows users to control appliances from their cell phones and in-home touch screens. Google announced its Android@Home platform last year, which will also let users control appliances directly from their Android phones (starting with a wirelessly connected LED bulb).


Microsoft wants to trump them all with HomeOS, a free “operating system for the home” that provides a centralized way for devices in the home to communicate. The Microsoft researchers working on the project explain that HomeOS “provides to users intuitive controls to manage their devices. It provided to developers high-level abstractions to orchestrate the devices in the home. HomeOS is coupled with a HomeStore through which users can easily add obtain applications that are compatible with devices in their homes and obtain any additional devices that are needed to enable desired applications.” Check it out in action below.

Microsoft has already tested HomeOS in 12 homes for four to eight months at a time. Over 50 students have developed applications that will presumably be found in the HomeStore, and Microsoft has come up with a number of applications as well. The already-developed apps include one that turns on music when lights are turned on, an app to control a light dimmer, and an app that lets you remotely control your security cameras.

Presumably, developers can also create apps that increase home energy efficiency–one that turns on air conditioning only when the garage door is opened, say, or an app that opens the shades when the thermostat hits a certain temperature.

There’s just one potential downside: If HomeOS only works with Windows phones and Windows computers, Microsoft may have a hard time getting the operating system to be universally accepted. Some people just really don’t like Windows.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.