It wasn't only a decade ago when Microsoft and Bill Gates talked about this. In Bill Gates' book The Road Ahead
, published back in 1995, he was already having visions of interconnected home devices and appliances. I think this has been long time innovative thought of Mr. Gates. You have to remember that even Microsoft was still a relatively small player in the industry and had only starting to gain momentum.
I was still a teenager back then but I found many of his ideas quite fascinating, especially the ones that resolved around similar stuff to HomeOS. While many Slashdotters say that Bill Gates merely copied his best ideas like BASIC, he also did have a very large amount of original ideas and thoughts. He described in good details about his visions for the future and how and why something like this would be great for everyones home.
In that sense, and despite what many slashdotters think, Bill Gates was quite a hacker. Actually, he really was and still is, and he got lucky to have parents with business background so he could mix those two capabilities. This ultimately led him to build the largest and greatest software company the world has ever seen, Microsoft.
If you haven't read the book, and even if you have something against Gates in your mind, I highly recommend to read it. It's a great read and truly lets you get into the innovative mindset of Bill Gates. Back when he was a young hacker and like with many other young people, he had tons of ideas in his mind.