I'm not sure how I missed this up till now, but Microsoft is apparently looking into the same home automation space that Google is trying to gobble up with its Nest acquisition. Microsoft's project (still in their research lab) is called HomeOS, with an accompanying software kit for devices called Lab of Things.
I'm really not sure whether to laugh or cry yet, because having long been a proponent of Microsoft to go kill this market, it really seems like they're still missing the real bread & butter features needed to start printing money. I watched the demo video on the HomeOS page, and just about the whole damned demo is about seeing appliances blink on and off in response to arbitrary events -- all on a Windows phone, of course. They finally touched on user access at nine and a half minutes into the ten-minute video, despite that being arguably the most important feature of all.
So listen, Microsoft -- if there's anyone out there still interested in making money, here's how you do it.
- HomeOS (or whatever this product winds up being called) needs a form of ActiveDirectory. One place -- for real -- to set up and administer users, including extended family members, friends, guests, etc. -- with a single interface so I can light up guest WiFi and TV streaming for a guest, for instance, without needing to hit four or five different devices. Once this is in place, I promise I'll never buy another device that doesn't authenticate against this directory, ok?
- Speaking of devices, I'm actually way less concerned about electronic doorbells than I am about XBoxes, NAS devices, and routers. Get this stuff to work together really, really seamlessly, and you might single-handedly save BestBuy.
- Continuing on the theme of devices, I'll repeat my recommendation to buy Drobo. Host your HomeOS on it, including AD, and package it to look like (and live next to) an XBox, including high-speed interconnection. BOOM! Microsoft owns the living room. The damned thermostat is an afterthought after that, you know?
- Let me tunnel to the HomeOS box I buy for Mom & Dad. They're not going to administer their own smart home, even if they can accomplish incredible things in less than 250 lines of C#. (Are you kidding me??? Is that *really* a feature??)
- If you're going to let me tunnel to other HomeOS locations, it's a pretty short leap to go ahead and buy a router company, too, isn't it? Plug that bad-boy right into my X-Drobo-thing, and configure it from the same interface. Make it easy enough for my nephew to set up, and keep it secure, too, if you think you can pull that off. That'd be great.
- If you require me to use a Windows phone to use all this warm fuzziness, you can flush it all down the pot. You're too late on this one, and you're going to have to embrace Android and maybe even IOS. You should have listened to me earlier on that one.
Seriously, Microsoft -- if you manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on this one, I'm not going to feel too sorry for you. This should be a big 'ol gimme -- just by re-assembling some tech you've already got. Give it a shot -- I'll bet there's plenty of time to sell brilliant doorbells later.