Microsoft launches cloud computing for consumers

23 Apr 2008

Microsoft yesterday launched its version of cloud computing that will allow the home and business user to access their devices and data remotely as a software and services platform called Live Mesh (pictured).

Live Mesh, launched at Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, starts with the idea that the user wants to be at the centre of their computing environment, said Noah Edelstein, group programme manager for user experience at Microsoft.

“I have a lot of computers that I use and my data is spread out across them, which makes it really hard to manage,” he said.

Edelstein explained that Live Mesh is a platform which puts the user at the centre of their digital world, no matter where they are, by accessing their computers and applications remotely but also synchronising data on all devices.

This means it is possible for a user to access their smart phone, desktop or any other connected device from say their laptop and open up applications or files stored on them, with no duplication issues because of the platform’s synchronisation functionality.

Live Mesh is centred around the Windows Live ID which is currently used to sign into Live services including Messenger, Hotmail and Spaces.

The Live Mesh interface sits on the desktop or laptop and visually represents the connected devices as a ‘device ring’, alerting the user of their online or offline status and allowing synchronisation of data and files.

Folders on the user’s desktop that are shared with or synchronised through the Live Mesh are denoted by their bright blue colouring and the user is kept up to date with what had been happening in the Mesh via a notifier.

Once a device is connected through Live Mesh, it appears onscreen in a new window, much like a remote desktop interface.

Edelstein said that while the platform uses the same remote desktop technology already seen in Windows, the difference is it can go through firewalls and NATs (network address translation).

Mike Zintel, product unit manager for the Mesh and Storage platform, said from the beginning Live Mesh was looked at as a service focused on the individual rather than the platform.

“One of the typical early conversations in a new project is the target audience: consumers or enterprise? Large or small organisations? Web, Windows, Mac or mobile? What mobile targets?

“We rejected this early on and focused on adding value for individuals: people who may work in enterprises and belong to multiple organisations, but who also make choices as consumers and use multiple technologies (and who are probably frustrated with the productivity barriers that exist as a side-effect of the seams the industry imposes on them).”

By Marie Boran