Location-based operating system concept: “Locus OS”

Just as I’m about to leave for Mobile World Congress, an interesting video caught my attention that seems to be more timely than ever considering Microsoft’s upcoming announcements about its future mobile strategy.

The video by Barton Smith, a designer from Australia of all places, appears to be a prototype UI for a conceptual “Locus OS” which is described as a “location-based operating system”. What makes it special is that it appears to be Microsoft branded, however without any background information I can’t say for certain if this was commissioned by Microsoft or not.

The video itself presents some very interesting concepts, the main focus of which is a multiple “desktop” arrangement that is location-aware – giving you flexibility in the widgets and applications you see based on your location and what you might be doing. Although some elements of the UX appear inspired by the iPhone, Palm Pre and Android, the designer points out that this was created in 2008 making many of the ideas original at the time. Nevertheless, definitely worth a look.

41 insightful thoughts

  1. looks really nice. I think I see something similar to the zune software. I also like the new F-explorer concept it looks alive

  2. It really makes you think for how much longer we’ll still be using a keyboard and mouse in the home.

    It may always have a place in the office, but would voice controls and hand/finger gestures replace computers in our home?

  3. Do you think this is a mobile OS? This OS was obviously designed for touch screens as you can tell from the white circle’s used to show location on the screen instead of a mouse. This honestly looks like a professional version of windows mobile 7 and it would be mind blowing. It even says phone in the home section and while going through the zune-like interface. Could it be WM&? I would be amazed if it was.

  4. A fantastic concept, and one which I would like to see Microsoft incorporate into a future product, under the guidance of Barton. This would be fantastic on a tablet PC incorporated into a home automation system, to make the need of light switches and other manual interfaces in reality redundant.
    Unfortunately though, this would require a fair investment and co-operation with (preferably a single rather than a multiple) an OEM, such as Dell. It would be worth it though.

  5. Wow. The check out some more from this.

    This looks ‘online’. Perhaps, this integrates with the Orion project.
    If it’s in the cloud then this could prevent ‘backward compatibility’, not be true multitasking and it looks like it has a Zune like interface in the media section.

    This looks sexy. The device doesn’t look like a phone in that photo stream, however.

    1. the device doesn’t look like a phone you say?

      as I scrolled down the page I came across this:
      – 4.3″ OLED screen
      – Omni-directional speaker
      – Multi-touch support

  6. Nice, but the name would have to be changed, uf it were to be sold in Germany. Locus is used as a colloquial term for a toilet here :-)

    1. lol.. yeah, that would be bad.

      Although if you goto Barton’s porfolio, the name “Stream” seems to be the more dominant brand. So, maybe the already thought about the drawbacks to Locus.

  7. who cares. MS research is always making cool stuff, but hardly any of it becomes real software. Even if this did become a real thing, MS would probably find some way to fuck it up. Apple and Google can suck it too. No one is going to bring the future to us now.

    1. aah, shut up and go back to sleep. there’s no way we’ll get the future now, because the future is tomorrow. we’ll get the future when tomorrow becomes today, but still today can’t be the future, because it’s not tomorrow….and the future is tomorrow…so

  8. Why is everyone so blown away by this? All this video demonstrated was a desktop with gadgets you could drag around, an iPhone-like menu and a Zune-like menu. We’ve all seen this stuff a million times before, in devices that have actually been produced and are on sale.

    1. Also how is this location aware? As far as I can tell you have to press the buttons for different locations. That doesn’t make the OS location aware, that makes the user location aware.

    2. if you are not trolling, then you should take a good look at the upper-leftmost panel on the desktops page. You see there Automatic; it means using your GPS, the system knows where you are and adpats your desktop. Of course, you can always choose another one manually. But then I suspect you are a troll, nothing MS make will never be cool in your sight.

    3. First of all, where do you see this “Automatic” thing?
      Secondly: how can the OS tell, by GPS, wether I’m in my study or in my living room? For that matter, how will it work indoors where there is no GPS reception?

      I’ll ignore the pathetic troll accusations.

    4. OK Fred, first, if you are not a troll then hereby my sincere appologies, I am just tired of MS-Bashing going on at the moment. People have lost their objectivity as far as MS is concerned, so when you start your posting with the negative comments without actually seeing the product you can understand my reaction.

      Finally, watch the video one more time, at timeframe 00:12 you will see a top-left box with the caption “Automatic” and the blue-marble icon. Selecting that will put that system in the auto-mode by which with assisted-gps it can set your desktop.

      Don’t ask me how it will know your study from your living-room, I don’t know how they’ll pull that off, I can imagine they are looking at rf-fingerprint of devices in the area, take for example the signal strength of your wi-fi router or bluetoot-devices at that point; couple that the GPS data that says you are at home, I guess they can then extrapolate your location. I would do it that way anyway, but I don’t know how they did it. I believe them if they say they did, else they wouldn’t market the feature.

      So shall we declare a truce and lay down this flame wars, I love LongZheng too much to mess up his blog.

    5. Apology accepted. I’m tired of MS bashing too, but first of all, this isn’t made by MS (that we know of) and secondly, neither of us have seen the product, just the concept video. Unless you’re privy to more information which you are hereby obligated to spill. :)

      Anyway, I’m negative about it because I am actually really unimpressed by it. That’s not trolling, that’s being honest. I honestly can’t see what you all are so impressed about. If the location awareness thing works, sure, that’s impressive, but without any explanation -how- this works, all I can see in this video is “wouldn’t it be cool if the OS could tell in what room you were?” illustrated by menus lifted from the iPhone and Zune HD. I don’t know, once this moves beyond a mockup somebody made and becomes an actually usable product, I’ll be ready to be blown away. Until then, color me underwhelmed.

  9. yeah… marketplace, marketplace and oh wow, marketplace!
    anyway, looks interesting but uh… like rather for dumbs, for those who dont need too much from computers.

  10. I do not think this is a commissioned concept for Microsoft, or else the designer would be under an NDA of some sort. More likely this is a self initiated concept using a made-up Microsoft brand and typographic style to add some degree of ‘Authenticity’.

    I am however prepared to be wrong on this, and some of the ideas in this would be quite suitable for a slimed down Windows 7 running on Tablet PCs

    1. I will bet MS has to do with this, one thing you don’t want to do is use someone else’s trademark on your product. I am sure no one in their right mind will put “Microsoft Locus” (see video timeframe 00:01) on a product if they are not associated with MS. That is a disaster waiting to happen to any company that does such a stupid thing. Microsoft is too deep-pocketed to afford a conflict with.

  11. I still think it is a mockup idea, not an actual product. It wouldn’t cause any legal issues as long as its fair use and not an actual product. But still I am prepared to be wrong. This could be “Metro”, but if it was, wouldn’t it be done internally by the Zune HD design team?

    1. Most companies search externally for mockup ideas and whatnot.
      However, be it Apple, MS or someone else, usually there’s Specifications and/or other Project Details for these folks to come up with their designs. I’m sure some of them come up with stuff out of thin air via their own creativity, but in this case, I think it’s based on some info from MS and then brought to life via this guy’s skills.

      I’m impressed… funny thing is, it was only revealed this week. If you look at the guys twitter account, he hasn’t mentioned this until a week out from WMC, yet this mock up has been developed over the last few years? hmm..

      I think something like this is what Jason Dunn, Tom Warren and others were ooohing and awwing at when they left Mobius last year.

      Let’s hope for some real excitement soon.

  12. That’s one the best concepts I have seen, it actually seems to bridge the gap between design and usability very well. MS will NEVER do this, that’s be too smart a move for them 😉 but I must say I’d love a location based desktop.

    Preferably one that would automatically load said desktop when I got to a location, e.g. my car’s bluetooth or my home’s/uni’s wifi… if the phone noticed that and switched profile I’d love it. Then alerts could be set to remind me of specific tasks the next time I was at a location- e.g. “Remind me of task… the next time I am at…. Home location”

    This would be groundbreaking, I just can’t see it happening now :(

  13. I don”t know whether anyone has noticed or not, the icons used in the Shortcut Menu are from a theme for jailbroken iPhone called Telius or something like that I had it on my iPhoen for couple of months. Well I am a Microsoft fanboy but I couldn’t resist the iPhone 3GS. But right now I would love to have the HTC HD 2 but unfortunately its not yet available in US yet.

  14. “This project has no association with Microsoft. The project was originally intended for the Microsoft Next Gen Computer competition in 2008. Hence I also looked at the project from a branding perspective and how a product like this might become Microsoft’s key arm along with Surface etc.”


    Guess I was right to see it as a theoretical design.

  15. Out of all the pre-announcement rumors floating around, who would’ve thought that this was the most accurate in predicting the Windows Phone 7 UI?

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