Read this through and you’ll see how Microsoft could be enabling a LOB platform in the cloud for ISVs. Beware however, that this could also be a research asset for Microsoft to bolster it’s own CRM and other offerings and potentially take out, devalue or acquire (for a lucky few) a few LOB app ISVs like it is or is not (depending on your point of view) with application hosting partners.
Microsoft Sync has appeared in some Ford vehicles and is apparently coming to at least two other manufacturers soon.
It amazes me how utterly appalling the uptake is of Windows in the car industry.
Microsoft Sync with a Microsoft’s Live Mesh client opens up the ability to take contacts, music, continuous user experiences (such as phone calls, paused music and podcast bookmarks), to your car.
Combine that with a ‘Windows Live PC’ running on an ‘Xbox portable’ or Zune in the mesh as I’ve mentioned in this series of posts on Live Mesh, and you can really see the magic of software plus services coming together for a seamless user experience.
One of problems with the Microsoft UMPC initiate has been that cost of PC capabilities in a small form-factor, and the need to up the component cost to provide Vista in that form factor. This has made many UMPCs (so far built not by Microsoft, but by IHVs) more expensive than many notebook computers and with less power at the same price.
With my concept of the ‘Windows Live PC’ and minimal SSD storage, the UMPC could stop growing in power (and energy consumption, resulting in longer battery life) and just turn into a ‘Windows Live PC’ client.
In previous posts I suggested that such a client doesn’t have to be very powerful. I also said that the xbox 360 is good enough. In fact the original xbox is likely good enough too in many ways – even perhaps a PS2 or PS3!!
How about a PC the size of a Mac Mini or the size of a Zune?
What if Microsoft sold its own UMPC with SSD storage, the form-factor of something like a Samsung Q1 Ultra but not much processing power – how about an Xbox portable?
An Xbox portable would be the ultimate convergent future of Live Mesh, Xbox, Xbox Live, ‘Windows Live PC’, Xbox portable, WPF, Remote App, Windows Server 2008, Windows licensing, ISV solution channel, etc.
Robbie Bach, J Allard, Ray Ozzie, Bob Muglia, Steve Ballmer & Bill Gates – take a look at this series of posts on Live Mesh – I know what you’re up to :) and if you’re not then you should be – it’s a vision I want to be involved in one way or another from the outside or the inside…
In this series of posts I’ve introduced the idea of a virtual ‘Windows Live PC‘. I’ve talked about how your Xbox could be the ubiquitous PC in your household without any software application installations, thanks to a potential expansion of the currently disclosed Web Desktop (storage service) in Microsoft Live Mesh, with the addition of RemoteApp from Windows Server 2008.
Silverlight 2.0+ is the SUPER TROJAN HORSE onto the Mac, Linux and I believe there could be more platforms to come (see next post…)
In previous posts I said that my notional ‘Windows Live PC’ will run (via RemoteApp) on anything that can handle the necessary technology stack with the xbox 360 being more than enough. It seems to me that Silverlight 2.0 (or perhaps a later interation) could easily talk the Remote Desktop protocol. Once that happens Microsoft can be selling you a ‘Windows Live PC’ subscription on your Mac and all those Windows-targeting ISVs can now license their product onto a Mac or Linux!!!
Note that there is already a Remote Desktop Client for Mac, but with the potential for Microsoft to offer a virtual ‘Windows Live PC’ running full screen, the Mac could fade into just a remoteapp client to a ‘Windows Live PC’ albeit a great new channel for the Windows and ISV software licensing – now that’s what I call leveraging!
In this series I’ve been talking about the possible strategy that Microsoft could be unleashing with Live Mesh and associated Microsoft technologies. I’ve framed it as a trojan strategy because it is not the offering being talked about, but just like Silverlight (the trojan RIA platform onto other platforms), Live Mesh could quickly spring into something dramatic – the Microsoft ‘Live PC’ concept that I predict in the last post.
Live Mesh provides a Web-based Live Desktop which is currently just a 5GB file store with a Windows-Explorer styled web interface. Add Windows Server 2008 Server RemoteApp into the mix, or should I say mesh, and you get the ability to run Windows anywhere you can run Remote Desktop.
Remote Desktop uses the Remote Desktop Protocol. So for a client device to provide a virtual Windows experience it more or less just needs to support a graphic blitting display, keyboard & mouse (or similar), TCP/IP and some cryptography for security.
So how basic could such a device be? Well that doesn’t matter because that xbox 360 is more than powerful enough and guess who sells that. That’s right, you may already have a device in one or more rooms in your house that could be the PC of your future. Remember that the RD protocol isn’t great for remoting intense A/V or graphics. That’s OK, because you would play games locally using the full local power of the xbox, and Microsoft has already mastered the Xbox Live multi-player service.
So you could have a Microsoft ‘Live PC’ which you access from any Xbox without any software installation. Xbox already does this kind of trick and even with HD video when it acts as an extender for a local Windows Media Center (running on XP Media Center or various Vista versions).
WPF makes it easier. The RD protocol does things to optimise the transfer of the virtual desktop image on the remote physical machine. When Xbox 360 is used as an extender it talks to the Media Center service on a local PC with a higher-than-pixel-level protocol to optimise the data. WPF provides a high level of retained descriptive UI too. I can see the RD protocol optimised (if it hasn’t been already) for remotely WPF applications. Microsoft would then encourage ISV to create more WPF-based apps that would be inherently optimised for a ‘Live PC’ experience.
Let’s not forget that Windows Home Server that was quietly (relatively) released last year. That server could start providing a LAN-based RemoteApp service for those things that can’t be run well over an Internet connection. A virtual ‘Home Office 201x Service’ perhaps?
I’ve said that I think Microsoft Live Mesh is approximately FolderShare + FeedSync + Remote Desktop + Live Core Services.
Mesh provides a Web-based Live Desktop which currently looks like FolderShare/SkyDrive with 5GB on cloud-based storage with a new web interface that looks like Explorer. Your can remote desktop to Vista/XP devices in your mesh, but the web-based desktop does not currently… provide an application/process execution environment that you could remote desktop to… see where this could be going?
For those not familiar with remote desktop, it’s the ability to have an XP/Vista or Windows Server computer running somewhere and have your login experience appear where you are – that means the keyboard, monitor, mouse & speakers at the computer you are using (and even local hard drives and printers) can connect to your remote physical desktop (or login on a windows server) and it feels like you are physically sitting in front of your remote physical machine. To do this, your local machine needs to be able to run the remote desktop client software. You can run the client full screen or in a window. Many people work form home by using a home PC to connect to their work PC. There are performance limitations to this, but it works just fine for information workers and develops in many cases. Intense A/V experience don’t remote so well.
So you can remote your physical XP/Vista desktop and use it on the machine you have. This is a user using their computer remotely. The experience can also be shared so that the regular user can be at the physical PC and a remote user can share the experience – this is Remote Assistance and allows IT support staff to help users through procedures.
Windows Server 2003 (and a little earlier) provides Terminal Services – whereby multiple virtual (no physical keyboard, video & mouse) desktop sessions can be present on a server with each desktop session connected to by a user on a PC.
Windows Server 2008 introduced RemoteApp: “Terminal Services (TS) RemoteApp and TS Web Access allow programs that are accessed remotely to be opened with just one click and appear as if they are running seamlessly on the end user’s local computer.” So rather than remoting the whole desktop, one or more single application windows appear on the local machine which are really running on a server somewhere…
Back to my ‘Windows Live PC’ concept. Live Mesh provides this Web-based Live Desktop which as I said currently is a folder storage services but it has a Windows Explorer-like UI. What would happen if you could actually double-click on a file and the appropriate application would launch, and without having to install anything! Yep, put Windows Server 2008 behind the Live Mesh web desktop and you have Live PC – a PC anywhere.
Such a ‘Windows Live PC’ would open up a huge subscription model for Windows and applications. Microsoft could provide a service-provider infrastructure so that instead of selling you software by download or on DVD, you could just license the service through Microsoft (or perhaps independent hosting). Instant deployment. This would make Windows Marketplace something worth looking through.
Microsoft may have had a struggle moving enterprise licensing to a subscription model with the horribly executed (at least initially) Software Assurance scheme, but the ‘Windows Live PC’ concept I’ve covered here could be the beginning of real subscription licensing of Windows… everywhere… Ray Ozzie, I know what you’re up to – I may even be up for sharing the vision if you have a suitable offer :)
While such a named product has not been announced to my knowledge, in subsequent posts in this series I’ll examine how Microsoft could make ‘Live PC’ available on many devices and operating systems!
Forget the misleading flashy 3D-portaying video at microsoft.com/silverlight for a second; ignore the fact that this puppy has not yet been released yet; pretend that lack of A/V live capture is not an important feature; overlook the 4MB download… what balances this out – what makes it really cool?
Windows Presentation Foundation is the very designer-friendly set of classes and runtime (developed against using XAML directly or through Expression and Visual Studio Orcas) that enables rich UI experiences. It is available for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and is included with Windows Vista, as part of .NET 3.0. At the risk of breaking the benefits of consitent UI investments, it can be used to build extremely compelling applications.
A subset of WPF, first known as WPF/e, makes up the rendering engine of Silverlight. The Silverlight runtime includes not only this subset of the runtime, but also the runtime to play back Windows Media content (on-demand or live). This runtime is ~1MB, so far.
The Silverlight runtime works in IE & Firebox on Windows, but also in Safari on the Mac! In a later release, it will also work in Windows Mobile and possibly Symbian devices.
At this point you have Flash (more or less) but with the whole weight of the Microsoft development eco-system behind you. Most notably, Microsoft has released a set of Graphic Designer tools under the Expression brand that allow you to design vector/bitmap graphics, design the interactive experience, design the web site and manage and prepare the audio/video media. Expression Web and Blend (web and UI tools) are included in various MSDN subscriptions. It’s not clear if Microsoft Partner will get it for free. The full Expression Studio (with all 4 tools) is priced at US$599 at retail which isn’t bad. The Media Encoder is a tag-along-later free download for preparing audio and video.
The next version of Visual Studio (codenamed “Orcas”) will include native support for Silverlight projects.
Microsoft is providing a free (up to 4GB) hosting service in Silverlight Streaming to people can get their content out there using this new platform. This is a smart move for sure.
That’s a lot of WOW – perhaps more flashy of a UI than Vista presents even.
(UPDATE: As Yuvi pointed out, it will be a subset of .NET 3.5 by then, rather than .NET 3.0)
A .NET developer can create rich experience on the Web without writing any HTML! He/she can practically be a Mac developer by running a Windows-like smart/rich-client application inside a browser on a Mac!
Microsoft also has an open-source initiative for a Dynamic Language Runtime to allow other languages like Ruby and Python to be used instead of the mainstay C# and VB.NET.
They are also including LINQ in the .NET subset to allow some cool data query syntax in the coding.
Being able to access Web Services from Silverlight combines the best of rich UI with powerful backend services.
With the addition of the full Silverlight product (1.1) you can now do .NET development on the windows desktop, on the windows server, on windows and other mobile devices (compact framework and Silverlight .net runtime), on the mac (and other platforms that may be supported later).
It’s not revolutionary, the tools are lagging behind the runtime, the runtimes are still in beta… and the “web 2.0″ and consumer web space is very busy (flickr, youtube, etc.), so it will be interesting to see if clear killer apps can emerge.