There are lots of discouragingly complicated ways to go about connecting electronic devices in your home, especially devices not intended for such, like a toaster. Microsoft is experimenting with its new HomeOS to try to make it fast and easy to make your home smarter, more efficient and more fun.
HomeOS is intended to be an operating system that's running on a dedicated computer inside your home, and an OS that ultimately bridges everything that uses electricity and makes it customizable and controllable. In this case, "everything" ranges from other computers to printers to routers to gaming systems to TVs to appliances to lighting to security cameras to your front door. As Microsoft admits, "heterogeneity across devices and across homes also makes it difficult to develop applications that solve these problems in a way that [will] work across a range of homes," which is a fancy way of saying that homes have a bunch of different crap in them and it's hard to come up with one single thing that'll get all of the aforementioned crap to talk amongst itself.
What Microsoft is trying to do is develop one single system that end users and developers can take advantage of to make it intuitive and easy to integrate electronics with computers. To that end, Microsoft R&D is making it as easy as possible for dumb users (like us) to take advantage of HomeOS to customize our lives through what will eventually be a HomeStore that give you access to home controlling apps.
This is certainly a good and useful idea, but as with all potentially good and useful ideas, simply being good and useful is not enough to guarantee acceptance or success. The tricky part here is going to be that without having lots and lots of devices that have been engineered to interact with HomeOS, end users aren't going to get much use out of it. And at the same time, without a sizable market of end users, manufacturers aren't going to be especially motivated to re-engineer their stuff to interact with something like HomeOS.
Microsoft, however, is undeterred, and the company put together a convincingly slick video demo of what HomeOS is capable of, below.