Code discovered by MacRumors in the first beta of tvOS 17.4 suggests that Apple's work on "homeOS" is continuing behind the scenes.
Back in June 2021, Apple listed two job postings that mentioned homeOS, but deleted the term when it was noticed by the media. We've seen no sign of homeOS since, except for in the first tvOS 17.4 beta.
Apple's 2018 HomePod ran a modified version of iOS 11 when it launched, but Apple transitioned to using the tvOS platform for the HomePod with the release of HomePod Software 13.4. As part of its effort to develop an expanded smart home presence, Apple could eventually combine the tvOS and HomePod software in the future, potentially rebranding it as homeOS.
Apple is actively working on a new smart home display that would compete with the Echo Show, Meta Portal, and Google Nest Hub, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The smart home display is said to have an iPad-like design and a camera for FaceTime calls, and it is likely meant to mount to the wall and serve as a central console for smart home products. The device could also feature HomePod-like speakers, and if the product sees a release, it could be part of Apple's HomePod lineup.
There have also been rumors of a next-generation version of the HomePod with a display at the top of the device, and this product could come out as early as 2024. homeOS could refer to either the iPad-like home hub in the works, or the HomePod with a display, but it is also possible that it is neither of these.
A SharePlay feature for the HomePod added in tvOS 17.4 beta 1 further hints at Apple's work on a HomePod with a screen. The update adds a QR code to the Apple Music app on the TV, which can be scanned by others to start a SharePlay session right on the device. A HomePod with a display could feature a similar function.
tvOS 17.4 is expected to see a public release in March alongside iOS 17.4, and the timing is close to when Apple sometimes holds a spring event. We've heard rumors of an iPad refresh coming in late March, so given the homeOS mention in tvOS 17.4 and a possible upcoming event, we may not have too long to wait before learning more about Apple's homeOS plans.