Microsoft Exits Smart Home Isolation Chamber, Heads To Kitchen

It's funny, when I'm working with a client to develop a smart home strategy and we discuss potential partners, Microsoft's name is one that always that comes up.

It's not that surprising really, since the company was what I would a "first wave" connected home company. Even before the great connected device revolution of the last five years, the company was instrumental in getting Universal Plug and Play off the ground and had a big whole-home connected entertainment play with Media Center and Media Center Extender, all before they finally got a big hit with a little platform called Xbox.

But outside of the Xbox platform, the company's been fairly quiet when it comes to the connected home, particularly as the smart home has started to heat up over the past couple years. Sure, it was interesting to see the company partner with INSTEON last year, but to me this type of partnership was just a toe in the water rather than anything amounting to a full-fledged smart home strategy.

But maybe things are starting to change. This past week at Hannover Messe, the company announced a partnership with German appliance maker Miele.  Here are some details from the release:

Miele & Cie. KG, a leading manufacturer of high-end domestic appliances and commercial equipment, is announcing a proof-of-concept study based on Microsoft Azure Internet of Things (IoT) services that will help usher in the next generation of smart appliances and home cooking. The concept will allow home users to program their ovens to ensure their meals will come out perfectly cooked, providing an exceptional customer experience.

The new technology comes from a collaboration between Miele and Microsoft to identify new Internet-enabled customer experiences. Based on the partnership, Miele developed this concept, which allows users to browse recipes on Miele’s website and choose from various meals. With the selection of a recipe, the necessary food preparation stages are downloaded to the user’s smartphone or tablet and the matching program is loaded onto the oven through Azure. The oven is programed to cook the specific meal using the proper operating mode, temperature, cooking time, humidity and other factors, taking out guesswork and promising great results.

“This assistance system incorporates temperature charts, times and the machine’s special features, such as adding steam, to create the optimum roasting, cooking or baking results,” said Dr. Eduard Sailer, executive director of Technical Affairs at Miele. “This allows people to get the best results out of their cooking appliances.”

It's an interesting partnership on a couple of fronts: One is that it's centered around Azure as an smart home-centric IoT enablement platform, one of the first that I've heard of since Azure's move into IoT over a year ago

Second, Microsoft is entering here through the kitchen and NOT the living room.  Living room/digital entertainment use-cases are where we've come to expect Microsoft to play in the home, so it's refreshing to see them try something different. 

Of course, we should mention that Microsoft has been exploring other use cases for the smart home through its Microsoft Ventures smart home accelerator announced last year. But this partnership with Miele is a new and interesting step forward into the smart home, even if it's a tentative one (the partnership is just in the 'study' phase, after all). 

Hopefully we'll see a bigger, more forceful move in coming months that sees Microsoft coalesce some of these experiments into a real strategy.

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