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Microsoft Architect Says 'Hohm' Project Killed Because of Windows Embedded

Microsoft has pulled the plug on Hohm, its free consumer home power-monitoring service, because according to one of the product's developers, "it didn't fit into the Windows Embedded business model."

The quote comes from a Tuesday blog post by M.J. Miller, a principal architect at Microsoft who says he has worked on the Hohm project from its early days. Miller wrote that Hohm first started at Microsoft in November 2007 and was later moved under the Windows Embedded Business (WEB) segment of the company. There it lasted nine months, until Microsoft announced last Thursday its plan to kill the Hohm service on May 31, 2012. (Microsoft's stated reason for discontinuing Hohm was "slow overall market adoption of the service.")

"How we ended up in WEB is another, longer, probably more twisted story, but that's where we ended, and that's why the product is being shut down next year," Miller wrote. "We certainly didn't call it quits because Google shut down PowerMeter. Believe it or not that was simply a coincidence."

Miller was referring to Google's announcement, issued just a few days before Microsoft's Hohm announcement, that it was ending its PowerMeter energy service. Google cited disappointment that PowerMeter had not "scaled as quickly as we would like," and indicated that it will end the service on Sept. 16, 2011.

The service discontinuations by Microsoft and Google come just after the Obama administration announced stepped-up efforts to support "smart grid" technologies, including an effort to help consumers save energy through the use of "enhanced information." For instance, the government has fostered a Grid 21 private sector initiative to "help consumers get better access to their own energy usage information so that they can take advantage of new tools and services to manage their energy use and save on their utility bills," according to a White House press release (PDF).

Microsoft's hardware partner on Hohm was Newfoundland, Canada-based Blue Line Innovations Inc., a maker of energy-monitoring hardware. Blue Line had also partnered with Google on its PowerMeter software. The Blue Line devices worked with both power-monitoring software products to automatically collect and track power usage statistics, instead of having to manually enter data. (Microsoft's Hohm requires users to manually enter data about their home appliances to generate power-saving suggestions.)

Blue Line recently announced (PDF) an as-yet-unspecified software partner to replace the phased-out Microsoft and Google solutions. The new partner will be disclosed "at the end of the month."

Automatic tracking with Hohm was also possible for consumers who used the services of certain participating utility companies. Miller discounted the idea that Hohm had been discontinued because utility companies are now producing their own smart meters.

Hohm worked by providing a score from 0 to 100 to estimate a home's energy efficiency. Its calculations were based on analytics solutions licensed from the Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley Labs.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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