Microsoft personal clouds to invade consumer markets

Microsoft personal clouds to invade consumer markets

Forecast for data downpour wherever you go

  • IN DEPTH: Full wrap of Microsoft World Partner Conference 2010 - news, interviews, slideshows

For the first time at the 2010 World Partner Conference, Microsoft delivered a consumer keynote.

Within the context of a commercial event, this might seem a bit out of place, but as the vendor's corporate vice-president of Windows consumer marketing, Brad Brooks, said, the consumer space is very much informing technologies in the enterprise space.

“The line between what we do at home and work is becoming blurred,” he said. “The distinction between consumer and commercial products is disappearing.”

What does this mean to Microsoft's consumer output going forward? Wait for it – personal clouds. If it wasn't enough to have public, private and hybrid clouds, Microsoft is envisioning a near future where we all have personal, secure clouds at home that will follow us around raining data on us via mobile phone and notebook when we're out and about.

“Technology is supposed to make us more connected, creative and productive,” Brooks said. “But at the moment it's scattered across PCs, phones, flash drives and the Internet. Many times out stuff is everywhere by where we need it when we need it. The result is confusion.”

Microsoft's vision is that each piece of Microsoft-enabled hardware owned by an individual, be that a notebook, PC, netbook, slate, Mobile 7 Phone or Xbox 360, is continually online, connected, and synced with every other device – and all of those devices then act, through Microsoft Live, as real-time social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube and more) feeds.

In other words, you would be able to take a holiday photo using a Windows 7 Phone, immediately edit it on your netbook (without the need for messy USB cords, flash drives or discs) and your family at home would be able to see it on the Xbox 360 (which presumedly wouldn't go on holiday with you).

In an on-stage demonstration, Brooks plugged in the name of a music band on Bing. The search results directed him to the Zune music service so he could buy and download the band's music tracks. Once downloaded he picked up a different notebook which, thanks to the personal cloud, already had access to that piece of music. He used it as an elaborate remote control to direct yet another PC to play the music, while then prompting a separate video playback on yet another monitor.

These personal clouds are also tied up with the social networking experience, Brooks said.

Upcoming versions of Windows Live Messenger will allow real-time sharing of documents, photos and videos while conducting a video call through Webcam – essentially telepresence for the home.

On the gaming front, Microsoft is making a push for integration.

Windows 7 Phones will be connected to the Xbox Live service, allowing consumers to view their online friends, gameplay achievements, and even play digital games from the service.

Whether the typical household is going to want to be so locked in to Microsoft technology remains to be seen, but given Microsoft's push to integrate consumer and commercial technologies, the personal cloud will be a compelling case for a work from home environment.

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