Live Mesh Preview Invites

Hmmm…. what to do with 5 invites…

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Windows Live Mesh Gives Legs or Wheels to Microsoft Sync and Auto PC

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.

A ‘Windows Live PC’ gives the UMPC, ‘Microsoft PC’ or Xbox Portable a Future

In this series of posts I’ve talked about my concept of the ‘Windows Live PC’ as the trojan strategy in Microsoft’s Live Mesh.

I’ve talked about how such a virtual PC could be available on an Xbox 360, a Mac or other platforms.

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…

Add a ‘Windows Live PC for Mac’ to your Live Mesh with Silverlight

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…)

Some developers may already be wondering why they should bother with HTML, AJAX, DOMs, DHTML, Javascript, etc. now that they can provide a hugely rich WPF Windows application in a browser using their existing .NET skills (plus WPF), and when that browser can be IE and Firebox on Windows, Safari on Mac, and whatever it is on Linux, without any of the nightmare that cross-browser standards-compatibility creates.

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!

Add a ‘Windows Live PC for Xbox’ to Your Live Mesh

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?

The Microsoft ‘Windows Live PC’ is coming to The Mesh – IMHO

This is the 2nd in a series of posts about Microsoft Live Mesh – check out the Live Mesh tag for the others.

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!

Will You Get Caught Up in the Microsoft Live Mesh?

Over the next few posts I’ll explorer the trojan horse that (I believe) Microsoft is building, including in your living room, your car and on other platforms.

I’m sure many posts have been written about Mesh but I hope to succinctly tell you what direction this could all be going in, as I see it.

I’ve framed this as a trojan horse because Mesh appears to be aimed at the consumer or at least the mobile/home workers.  What it could turn into is a great online strategy for Microsoft and a real move to subscription based Windows everywhere!

It has been touted as a great platform for developers but my current feeling is that there will only be a handful of killer apps that can be built on top of this platform as currently explained, and Microsoft could well build those itself.  Keep ready this series for the real ISV opportunity…

Mesh was mentioned briefly at the Mix conference, which was a mostly empty delivery of news and rehash of Silverlight news.  See the Silverlight tag on this blog for a recap.  Announcing Mesh after the Mix may have been a timeline slip, or it may not matter since access to Mesh previews has been heavily limited.  Perhaps Microsoft has learned to temper excitement to new ideas… or the timeline slipped…

As currently explained Microsoft Mesh seems to approximate to FolderShare + FeedSync + Remote Desktop + Live Core Services.

Conceptually it’s a set of cloud-based management for shared folders, device membership and a central activity news feed.  XP and Vista machines can join your mesh (by installing components on each desktop – with support for other devices coming later), but your mesh starts with one special device up front – a web-based Live Desktop that has 5GB of storage – I’ll come back to this in subsequent posts, but for now think of it as virtual storage only (like Microsoft SkyDrive) with a Explorer-like web interface.  The cloud maintains information about notional ‘meshed’ folders that are made real on one or more real device file system and/or the web desktop’s 5GB.  A share appears on each device (selected for share) as a folder positioned in the file system by the user.

So, once you have devices in a mesh and folders appearing on devices you can start to work on your files on one computer and then pick up that work on another computer.  If that’s not good enough or you didn’t put a file into a ‘meshed’ folder then you can remote desktop (with addition of some NAT traversal goodness) to a device to place a file into a ‘meshed’ folder.

This is all very well if you computer is not in power-save, the file is not exclusively locked syncing is up to date, and the internet connection is available for syncing,

Got the idea?  No? Check out mesh.com for an introduction at this time.

Read on to more posts in this series