Microsoft is back in the home automation business with the acquisition of id8 Group R2 Studios, Inc., launched in 2011 by Slingbox founder Blake Krikorian. (Update: The Wall Street Journal notes that the acquisition is related primarily to id8’s digital media technology, and that Krikorian will most likely be joining Microsoft’s Xbox team. The WSJ also alludes to Krikorian’s home automation technology: “As part of the deal, Microsoft also acquired some patents owned by the startup related to controlling electronic devices.”)
It had been rumored that Apple, Google and Microsoft were bidding on the company.
Krikorian’s first big play in home automation was creating the first Android app for Crestron, the leading manufacturer of professionally installed home-control systems.
Electronic House’s sister publication CE Pro broke the news on that product, codenamed R2, in 2010. It began shipping in May 2011.
But while Crestron might be the biggest player in the market for professionally installed automation systems, it is after all a relatively small market. Neither Krikorian nor Microsoft is particularly interested in niche markets. They’ll be shooting for the do-it-yourself masses.
No home automation vendor has yet to penetrate the DIY mass market, although Motorola was starting to gain traction with its acquisition of 4Home in 2010. Verizon began selling a remote home control and monitoring system based on that home automation platform in 2011.
It won’t be Microsoft’s first attempt. The software giant has tried and failed to tap the home automation market for at least two decades, first with UPnP and home automation device control protocols in the mid 1990s. Then again, timing is everything.
Earlier this year, Microsoft launched HomeOS, presumably a platform for the connected home. The company released a prototype to academic institutions “to encourage teaching and research on connected homes and devices.” At the time, Sigma Designs provided an SDK for Z-Wave devices.
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Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.