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We’ve come a long way from the days when everything ran on either “Mac OS X” or “iOS” — over the years Apple has parlayed its core iPhone operating system into separate versions for the Apple Watch and Apple TV, and most recently even the iPad has gotten its own flavour of iOS.
Now it looks like Apple is getting ready to add a fifth column to the mix in the form of something called “homeOS.”
The reference to this unheard-of operating system was recently spotted by developer Javier Lacort (via MacRumors), where it’s in a job listing for a Senior iOS Engineer for Apple Music, alongside Apple’s other operating systems.
In fact, it’s mentioned not once, but twice, the first time as an opportunity for the successful candidate to “work with systems engineers across Apple,” and the second time as part of the “system-integrated Apple Music experience.”
You’ll get to work with system engineers across Apple, learning the inner workings of iOS, watchOS, tvOS and homeOS, and optimizing your code for performance in ways only Apple can.
The Apple Music Frameworks team owns the technology stack that enables the system-integrated AppleMusic experience on all of our mobile platforms: iOS, watchOS, and homeOS.
These kinds of inadvertent disclosures from within Apple are rare, but they’re certainly not unheard of. However, the timing for this one suggests that Apple is preparing to unveil it at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference, and the job listing got released a few days earlier than it was supposed to be.
Unlike most of Apple’s product releases, major new operating systems — and certainly the announcement of entirely new ones — pretty much only happen annually at WWDC, since that’s when all of Apple’s top developers are gathered in one place, virtually or otherwise. It would be extremely odd for a reference like this to show up now if it wasn’t going to be announced next week, since that would suggest that it’s not coming for another whole year.
What Could homeOS Be?
The bigger question is precisely what this new operating system may entail. While the name makes it clear that it’s designed for the home, it could be anything from a simple rebranding to the core of an entirely new hardware product.
For instance, while Apple’s HomePod and HomePod mini actually run a variant of tvOS under the hood, having previously been derived from iOS, Apple hasn’t ever really come up with a consistent public-facing name for what runs on its smart speakers. Instead, over the years it’s waffled between things like “iOS for HomePod”, “HomePod iOS”, and “HomePod Software.” In fact, the first major HomePod update was identified simply as “iOS 12.”
Internally, the HomePod software is referred to as “audioOS” but unlike the rest of Apple’s operating systems, the company has never used that term publicly, and it’s not found in any of Apple’s support documents.
This is not unlike the history of the Apple TV, which for many years simply ran something called “Apple TV Software” before it finally evolved into the tvOS that we know today. However, it’s also worth keeping in mind that Apple TV Software and tvOS differed in many more ways than just their name.
Still, with Apple expected to expand the HomePod lineup even further, and rumours over the past few years that it’s working on a powerful new HomePod, it’s probably time for the embedded operating system to grow up and embrace the home.
Since we already know that Apple has bigger plans for the HomePod mini, it’s possible that homeOS may be the first step toward unlocking an entirely new array of capabilities in its affordable smart speakers.
It’s also fair to say that this probably isn’t a rebranding of tvOS, since that’s still prominently mentioned in the job listing, although it’s conspicuously missing from the second reference that encompasses Apple Music devices, and, perhaps more significantly, it’s mentioned as a “mobile platform” alongside iOS and watchOS.
What’s more interesting, however, is that if homeOS is anything more than just a rebranding, Apple is also going to need to provide developers with a better idea of exactly what it’s going to run on, which means we could actually see a new hardware product like a home hub announced next week to go along with it.
Whether such a product would actually be released next week is another matter, of course. Remember that Apple announced its first HomePod at WWDC 2017, but it didn’t start shipping until early 2018. By all reports, Apple’s next major home product is still a long ways off, but it might be ready to whet our appetites next week by showing it off at WWDC — especially if it’s something that developers need to get ready for.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]