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An OS for the home and cool Kickstarter projects

Gibbs ponders Microsoft's new OS for the home and reviews two cool startups on Kickstarter

By , Network World
May 18, 2012 08:27 AM ET

Network World - This week we start with something that has both intrigued and amused me: Microsoft Research has a new operating system in the works targeted at home automation called, with glaring dullness, HomeOS.

The logo of Microsoft Research's HomeOS home automation operating system

Microsoft says, "To simplify the management of technology and to simplify the development of applications in the home, we are developing an 'operating system' for the home. HomeOS provides a centralized, holistic control of devices in the home. It 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."

BACKGROUND: Microsoft's automated Future Home: What can go wrong?

What intrigued me about this project is Microsoft is surprisingly late to the market -- a market that, despite years of hype, has yet to really take off. Perhaps Microsoft thinks it can give it a push start.

But I am also amused by the name. Running the operating system name past various friends, they either pronounced it "ho-me-oss" or, worse still, "ho-moes" neither of which, I suspect, is what Microsoft would like.

So, I have two Kickstarter projects that I think you should look into. The first is the HAND Stylus, which looks like it will be the capacitative stylus I've wanted since I first got an iPad. The problem with the current styli I've tried, is they feel more like using a banana than a pen. Styli such as the TenOne Pogo Sketch Plus ($15) are OK for some purposes (painting apps and simple graphics), but they feel nothing like a regular pen on regular paper.

The HAND Stylus for capacitative screen devices

With a 4mm tip (roughly 30% smaller than any other stylus I've tried) the HAND Stylus promises to be a vast improvement over other designs. The HAND Stylus also looks great, rather like my favorite mechanical pencils made by Rotring (I studied architecture back in, oh, the Pleistocene era, and Rotring was the Rolls-Royce of drafting pencils).

VISUAL TOUR: 9 interesting tech projects from Kickstarter

As with other Kickstarter startups, you can support this project for as little as $1. Actually, even if you don't personally get involved, the HAND Stylus project will happen because, as of this writing, over 1,800 backers have committed more than $74,000 ($25,000 was the original goal) and there's still more than 30 days until the project's funding date of June 17. Can you say "pent-up demand"?

The other Kickstarter project of note is Wovyn, started by my old friend Scott Lemon (who I've known since our Novell days 25 years ago!). This project is actually related, potentially, to Microsoft's HomeOS, in that it enables the connection of the real world with the online world.

The Wovyn Web service management interface

Wovyn is an "Internet of Things" concept and consists of a gateway device that communicates wirelessly with a large range of sensor types (30 different types are either ready or in development, including sensors for temperature, humidity, magnetic, light and acceleration). The gateways communicate with networks either over Wi-Fi or via a Windows, Linux or Mac computer using a USB connection.

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