From the Holoflector virtual mirror to the Illumishare, Microsoft Research never fails to impress us with new product concepts. One area of focus that the group has been working on is home automation, with additional details about its HomeOS project coming to light in a recently-posted paper. While the HomeOS name itself isn't new — as CNET points out, the name surfaced back in 2010 — the paper notes that Microsoft has had the platform running in 12 different homes over the last four to eight months. The idea is to move away from a series of single devices that may or not be connected in favor of a desktop computer metaphor, where "all devices in the home appear as peripherals connected to a single logical PC." To handle the issue of integration with multiple devices, the systems uses something called "roles" — basically, packages of functionality that one would associate with a given household item, like a lamp or a door lock — with any new device able to connect under the guise of that role, and the system being able to add new functionality with additional roles the same way smartphone users add new functionality with apps.

The PC metaphor makes quite a bit of sense, but with Google already thinking of the cloud as the brain center for Android@Home, it will be curious to see how much Microsoft's vision has evolved when — or if — HomeOS makes it to market.