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Microsoft to weave Web 'Mesh' for data, devices and applications

New online service aims to help you keep all of your indispensable gadgets in fighting trim

By Heather Havenstein
April 22, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft Corp. is aiming to use the Internet as a hub to "mesh" data, devices and applications that are always updated and available from anywhere. Microsoft's new Live Mesh, which it announced as a limited technology preview Tuesday and planned to detail further here at the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Expo, combines hosted services for storage, sharing files and peer-to-peer connections to allow multiple different devices to work together and users to access updated applications from anywhere, the company said.

With Live Mesh, files, feeds, folders, documents and media can all be synchronized across devices and the Web, Microsoft said. Content from a user's "device mesh" can be shared with others who are using the new Microsoft offering.

Live Mesh also includes the ability to enable multiple devices to report into a common service for status and updates, or to report their locations. It will also support centralized management so users can configure and personalize their devices, and can remotely control them from anywhere, according to Microsoft.

Live Mesh's programming model is the same for so-called compute clouds and connected devices, so that a Live Mesh application works the same whether it's running in a cloud, in a browser or on a mobile device, according to Amit Mital, general manager of the team that developed the new technology.

"Devices are how we interact in this new 'Web connected' world, and we use a variety of them, including PCs, laptops, media devices, phones, digital picture frames, game consoles [and] music players," Mital noted in a blog post. "However, as we discover, adopt and use more of these digital devices, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the people, information and applications we depend on in sync. With Live Mesh, your experience starts by adding devices to your personal device mesh and making them aware so they work together."

Here's how Live Mesh works:

  • After signing up for the service using a Windows Live ID, a user adds personal devices to their personal device mesh so the gadgets can be aware and work together.
  • After adding a device, a user will see a notifier icon in the Windows Taskbar that will include a list of devices, news feeds and folders in the user's personal mesh.
  • Live Mesh will update and sync files and folders as changes are made.
  • Users can also use Live Mesh to share the content of folders with other users, and Live Mesh will notify the user when the content is updated or changed.

Live Remote Desktop builds on the capabilities of Windows Remote Desktop, enabling users to directly access and control other devices within their mesh, Mital added.

Initially, the technology preview will only have a user interface in English and will support only Windows Vista and XP machines, but Microsoft said it is working on support for Macintosh and mobile devices. Microsoft said it planned to provide additional details on Live Mesh "in the near future," including access to an SDK.

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