The makers of INSTEON, one of the leading home control brands, have announced a strategic relationship with Microsoft to deliver home automation products and software to consumers. Currently, this relationship entails INSTEON apps for the Windows 8 and Windows Phone platforms and a retail presence for INSTEON home control products in Microsoft’s physical and digital stores.
INSTEON has long been a favorite of hobbyists tackling home automation on their own. An in-house product line designed and engineered by SmartLabs—which is an offshoot of smarthome.com—INSTEON has been around for nearly a decade now. The INSTEON ecosystem includes switches, sensors, controllers, lighting, and interfaces that can be used for third-party devices. The devices interoperate through a mesh network created over both your power line and RF, making it very scalable and very reliable.
With the INSTEON Hub, SmartLabs moved home control from the PC to a stand-alone appliance and ultimately to the cloud. It enables a family of apps that can control devices in your home from within your network or anywhere on the Internet. With this strategic partnership with Microsoft, INSTEON has extended that family of apps, adding some greatly desired (and needed) features, initially exclusive to Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Windows Phone platforms. Windows “metro” fans will love the apps’ pure adoption of the new Windows design language. If they work as advertised, these are unquestionably the best INSTEON apps currently available on any platform. The apps will be available on both Windows and Windows Phone on June 1.
On the retail front, SmartLabs has been gradually establishing a retail presence for INSTEON in stores like Best Buy, Costco, and Home Depot over the past year or two. The retail presence has somewhat surprisingly shifted the bulk of their revenue from smarthome.com to traditional retail outlets. But none of these retailers can offer the kind of customized attention that specialty retailers like the Microsoft Store provide. Placing INSTEON products and packaging in Microsoft Stores around the country—even in the chain’s smaller numbers—puts these products in front of the young, tech-savvy consumers who are typically intrigued by today’s home control technologies. And, perhaps more importantly, they offer customer support that’s knowledgable about every product in the store.
The Microsoft Store will feature custom INSTEON packaging and new, exclusive starter kit bundles starting at $199 and targeted to both home and business customers. Consumers will also be able to buy individual INSTEON products at the Microsoft Store, with microsoftstore.com offering a much wider selection and variety of products from the INSTEON ecosystem. Expect to see the bright new boxes in stores by July and online as soon as June 1.
Many, of course, (including those of us at the DMZ) are wondering where this partnership might lead. We’d love to see integration with Cortana, INSTEON control on the Xbox One (“Xbox, dim the family room lights”), and Microsoft’s full-on adoption and support for home control and automation. Is this just the start? We hope so.
The INSTEON folks have also announced that the new Windows platform apps will soon (but don’t yet) support the Nest thermostat and two additional third-party products soon after that. They’re not talking, but our chips are on Phillips hue lighting and some lock manufacturer.
Read the INSTEON Press Release.
For more details about INSTEON and the recently-announced collaboration with Microsoft, check out the upcoming episode of our home automation podcast, Home: On #024, to be published the week of May 26.