Andrew D Smith at the Dallas Morning News today reported that Blockbuster is experimenting with Microsoft’s Live Mesh to bring movies to mobile devices:
Blockbuster Inc. caught up to the competition last week by introducing a set-top box that brings rentals from the Internet to the television.
Now, the Dallas-based company hopes to pass the pack by teaming with Microsoft Corp. on new mobile services that will let customers watch even more movies on more devices.
“Eventually, we’ll give customers instant access to any movie on any device with an Internet connection and a screen,” said Keith Morrow, Blockbuster’s chief information officer.
“More immediately, we could use this technology to reach into airports. Travelers could quickly download movies from Blockbuster kiosks to their portable media players.”
Blockbuster will try to build some of these services on top of the new software platform from Microsoft.
Dubbed “Live Mesh,” it uses Internet connections to share data among different devices.
Reading between the lines it seems that Microsoft has some Live Mesh fans on the technical side at Blockbuster who have been experimenting with Live Mesh. It’s not clear how much “teaming” is actually going on, but I’m sure Microsoft is doing nothing to discourage Blockbuster.
Microsoft has thrown open the doors to their Live Mesh technology preview and anyone in the USA can sign up at www.mesh.com if they have a Windows Live ID. Outside the USA will work too, if you are "willing to change your Windows operating system region and language setting to EN-US."
If you are having trouble keeping track, Live Mesh is Microsoft’s Software+Service data synchronization platform announced in April. Sarah Perez (the first link above) describes what you can do with the current preview:
With Mesh running on your computers, you can simply right-click any folder and choose "Add to Mesh." By doing so, that folder and all the files it contains are synchronized with all of your other computers you’ve added to your personal Mesh. It also syncs those files to the Live Mesh Desktop, which is Mesh’s "cloud" – an online web site you can access from any computer. At the moment, the online storage is limited to 5 GB, but that could change in the future. However, Mesh’s recent update allows you to set folders to sync via peer-to-peer, bypassing Live Desktop. When folders are Mesh-enabled, a small panel appears to the right of the folder in explorer which catalogs any changes to the folder (file adds/moves/deletions) as well as notes and comments left by any of the folder’s members.
Live Mesh also lets you access all your “meshified” computers remotely, so if you have software that is installed only on one PC, you can use Live Mesh to access that computer as interact with it as if you were sitting in front of it.
I would have to observe that Live Mesh is required because Microsoft is inextricably tied to applications running on clients which makes synchronization a necessity to compete with applications running in the cloud, a lesson Microsoft has already acted on with Office Live Workspace. However, since today most folks aren’t using cloud applications anyhow, Live Mesh seems very useful.
Last week Microsoft announced a technology preview of Live Mesh, their platform for future Software plus Services applications, and as usual, they seemed to have a hard time explaining it:
As has become the norm with so many of its Software + Services products and strategies, Microsoft isn’t the best at coming up with a succinct Live Mesh definition. The closest I found (in a Live Mesh reviewer’s guide) was this: “Live Mesh is a ’software-plus-services’ platform and experience from Microsoft that enables PCs and other devices to ‘come alive’ by making them aware of each other through the Internet, enabling individuals and organizations to manage, access, and share their files and applications seamlessly on the Web and across their world of devices.” If I were in charge of defining Live Mesh, I think I’d go with “a Software + Services platform for synchronization and collaboration.”
That was Mary Jo Foley and sounds about right to me. If you want a detailed but crisp explanation of what was announced, I recommend Nate Mook’s rundown at BetaNews. If you would like the big picture, the tech pundits have been busy, but I’d offering the following.
Live Mesh is about creating a fixed point on the Web for a user to store, synchronize, and optionally share all his important information from all of his various intelligent devices including PC’s, smartphones, and whatever else comes down the pike. It’s very early days since the developer tooling isn’t ready and the synchronization isn’t even functional yet, but Microsoft hopes to get developers started looking at their platform.
If the vision is appealing, you can sign up to kick Live Mesh’s tires. If you want to be critical, there’s room for that too starting with the usage of the Web as a data "hub" and not a real application platform plus the perennial worry about just how open this supposedly open offering will truly be. In other words, it’s a typical Microsoft technology gambit and duly reflects their corporate perspectives and prejudices.