Microsoft announced yesterday that it is finally embracing a growing trend called "cloud computing," in which users access software and services online rather than via software that is installed locally on their PCs. Through a new initiative called Live Mesh, Microsoft will for the first time migrate its core computing platform off of the PC desktop and into the Internet cloud.
"This new software-plus-services platform enables PCs and other devices to 'come alive' by making them aware of each other through the Internet," Amit Mital, general manager of Microsoft's Live Mesh efforts wrote in a corporate blog. "Our goal is to provide a 'just works' experience by making it much easier to access the information, applications, people, and devices you care about."
This initial version of Live Mesh is currently in a closed beta aimed at developers but will be opened up to the public later in the year, Mital says. It will attempt to provide four key services: device interoperability; anywhere access to files, folders, and programs; simple sharing and interaction with others; and automated updates. Although none of this sounds particularly revolutionary, remember that this platform exists in the cloud, not on a PC desktop. Central management of devices and applications online, for example, is unexplored territory for Microsoft and its customers.
The first developer-oriented beta of Live Mesh includes a number of low-level technologies that will form the basis for the entire platform as well as enable programmers to create unique solutions of their own. From a foundational perspective, Live Mesh includes programmatic access to core services such as (online and offline) Storage, Membership, Sync, Peer-to-Peer Communication and Newsfeed. And the programming model is identical between desktop-based, device-based, and cloud-based Mesh solutions, meaning that a single Live Mesh application will run identically on any supported hardware platform.
I'll be writing more about Live Mesh in the coming days on the SuperSite for Windows. This is an important service that could one day evolve into Microsoft's core business model.