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Microsoft unveils hybrid computing platform

23 апреля 2008

The new platform intended to ease the transition of its core software business to the web. The move comes two-and-a-half years after Bill Gates, chairman, warned that the rise of internet computing could one day threaten Microsoft’s desktop software business.

It is the clearest evidence so far of the influence of Ray Ozzie, who took over from Mr Gates as the company’s chief software architect in 2005.

The new technology, known as Live Mesh, is designed to free a consumer’s data from the PC or other device where it resides and place copies of it automatically on any other internet-connected gadget, or make it available through a web browser.

Microsoft executives said the Mesh could make it possible for people to access digital music stored on their home PC from any device or computer, work on documents that were entered on other computers or share their photos and other media automatically with friends over the internet.

The technology is being launched in an early test version, with a full trial scheduled for later this year, Microsoft said. The group did not say when it expected consumer services based on the idea to be available.

By giving users a way to copy data easily to Microsoft’s servers and then work on it in a “virtual desktop” through a browser, the idea echoes the so-called “cloud computing” strategies of companies such as Google.

Microsoft said it would guarantee at least five gigabytes of storage free of charge.

However, Microsoft’s plan adds a further element, making it possible to “sync” information automatically between a user’s computers and other digital devices, creating what it called a personal “device mesh”.

Users who first register all their devices on a Microsoft website will be able to copy information between them simply by “right clicking” on the relevant folders, Microsoft said.

This peer-to-peer system, though using the internet as a hub, leaves data and the programs needed to manipulate it on the “client” devices – an idea that ties in with Microsoft’s argument that the internet is not yet ready to replace all client-based computing, and Mr Ozzie’s own long-running work in his earlier companies on similar peer-to-peer technologies.

“It has the potential to be visionary – there is something more powerful than the cloud, it’s the cloud plus the device mesh,” said David Smith, an analyst at Gartner.

As a transitional technology that does not rely on a complete shift to the web, the plan is designed to protect Microsoft’s own earlier technology investments, as well as those of customers who rely on its software, he added.

Adoption of the technology would depend on how closely Microsoft integrates the Mesh idea into its other software, and whether other developers adopted it and built applications around it, Mr Smith said. Reflecting Microsoft’s increasing move away from a Windows-only computing world, the company said it would soon make versions of the technology available that run on a wide range of internet browsers as well as Apple’s Mac operating system.

Mr Ozzie said in an internal memo that the aim was to link all internet-enabled devices, “not just PCs and phones but TVs, game consoles, digital picture frames, DVRs, media players, cameras and camcorders, home servers . . . our car’s entertainment and navigation systems, and more”.

Источник: Financial Times

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