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?