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!