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Only days before Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference this past June, evidence appeared suggesting the company was on the cusp of revealing a whole new operating system platform focused on home-based devices. While WWDC 2021 came and went with no mention of this at all, another new job posting suggests that Apple is still working on it behind the scenes.
The first hint of this new project, dubbed “homeOS,” appeared in a job listing for a Senior iOS Engineer for Apple Music, prompting speculation on what Apple could possibly be up to. Many expected we’d hear an announcement at WWDC, but Apple instead corrected the job listing to change the “homeOS” reference to simply say “HomePod,” making it appear like it was little more than a gaffe on the part of some copywriter.
This week, however, the mysterious “homeOS” reference has re-emerged in another job listing uncovered by MacRumors. The posting is for a similar engineering position with the Apple Music team and uses identical phrasing from the earlier posting:
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.
This time around, however, Apple was much quicker to respond, removing the specific job listing in question, which had originally been posted on October 12, and making sure other similar job postings use the word “HomePod” instead.
What Could homeOS Be?
While it’s possible this was just another blunder on the part of whoever managed Apple’s job listings — perhaps the template used back in June wasn’t actually corrected and got re-used before anybody noticed — it seems pretty unusual that Apple would make the same mistake twice.
Therefore, we think it’s far more likely that these “homeOS” references are real, but they’re something that Apple isn’t yet ready to make public knowledge.
Over the past couple of years, Apple has actually been lowering the profile of second-tier operating systems like tvOS. During the last two WWDC keynotes, tvOS was barely mentioned — if it was even mentioned at all.
Similarly, the operating system that runs on the HomePod has never gotten a formal name at all. Internally, it’s reportedly known as “audioOS,” but nobody at Apple has ever used that term in a public setting. Officially, it’s merely the “HomePod Software,” but it doesn’t even get spoken of that way.
Instead, Apple has kept its focus on the features that are delivered by the underlying software and operating systems. For instance, at the last WWDC, the company revealed several new HomePod mini and Apple TV features, but at no point did it talk about them “coming in a tvOS update” or a “HomePod Software update”; it merely said that they’d be coming to the devices “later this year.”
Considering that the Apple TV and HomePod are both appliance-like devices, this is somewhat understandable. It makes more sense to treat the hardware and software as a single integrated system than to think of them as operating system updates.
Still, the references to homeOS do suggest that Apple might have something else up its sleeve.
Up to now, Apple’s living room strategy could best be described as somewhat rudderless. The original HomePod never took off the way Apple would have liked it to and was finally killed off earlier this year in favour of the HomePod mini. Likewise, the Apple TV has seen only three models since it was first revamped for tvOS back in 2015, with each offering useful but modest upgrades.
Despite this, we continue to hear rumours that Apple has bigger plans for the home ecosystem. From hiring new leadership to reports of an advanced HomePod and Apple TV hybrid, it’s clear that Apple hasn’t given up on having a presence in the living room — but it’s equally obvious that it hasn’t quite figured out how to do it yet.
When you look at this from the most optimistic perspective, homeOS could be Apple’s attempt to build an entirely new ecosystem throughout the home. It’s certainly already taken some big steps toward this. For instance, HomeKit already offers one of the most capable home automation systems on the market today. This year, Apple took that a step further by allowing Siri to function on third-party devices like smart thermostats.
Meanwhile, the 2021 Apple TV 4K took a really big step to becoming the core of your home theatre system, adding new capacities to the original HomePod even after it had been discontinued. Then there are the hidden sensors already inside the HomePod mini, which, along with its inclusion of Thread support, suggest that Apple has already equipped it for bigger things.
However, the real hope for homeOS is that it won’t just be a unification of Apple’s HomeKit, HomePod, and Apple TV under one banner, but also an open playground for developers to come up with all manner of other clever ideas and apps. In other words, homeOS could do for Apple’s home ecosystem what iOS did for the mobile world.
[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.]