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December 1, 2008 1:17 PM

Blockbuster to build on Microsoft's "Live Mesh" -- a refresher on the underlying technology

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Blockbuster is teaming up with Microsoft to eventually "give customers instant access to any movie on any device with an Internet connection and a screen," a Blockbuster exec told The Dallas Morning News. The movie rental giant is one of the first big names to announce plans for Microsoft's "Live Mesh" technology, a part of the company's broader online services platform for developers.

What sorts of things does Blockbuster imagine it could offer with Live Mesh?

-- Allow travelers to download movies to a media player from an airport kiosk;

-- Pause a movie on an Internet-connected TV and start it in the same spot on a TV somewhere else;
-- Notify parents of their kids movie-watching habits.

David Treadwell, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Live Platform Services, explained Live Mesh and how it fits with the company's other Live services as a developer platform during Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in October.

Live Mesh seeks to address the loads of data people are accumulating on different devices -- "islands of computing resources," as Treadwell called them.

"You want control over your data, you want easy access, anytime access to your data, and that's sometimes difficult. ... The purpose of Live Mesh is to bridge these different islands, to make it easy for users to have access to all of their devices, all of their data, all the people they care about, all their applications, with a core concept of synchronization underlying it," he told the crowd of developers at PDC.

The company rolled out Live Mesh in April as a primary example of the company's "software plus services" strategy. At the time, it was described as an extension to Windows, giving people a central place to manage multiple PCs and devices.

Treadwell called that "the tip of the iceberg" in October.

"We've always know with Mesh that a key aspect of it is the platform infrastructure that underlies it," he said.

Microsoft has added Live Mesh to its broader set of Live Services, "the developer infrastructure that it brings together to allow developers to create applications and Web sites that connect a user's data, their devices, their people, their applications."

The idea is to "allow developers to build applications that blend the best of what you can do on the local client with the best of what you can in the cloud, all based on synchronization," Treadwell said. "It connects applications to users and their devices, makes it really easy for you to build an application that leverages these multi-device, multi-user sharing kinds of scenarios, and integrate client and cloud capabilities to do it."

The services, including Live ID, contacts lists, Live Messenger, search and mapping, are accessed with a new Live Framework for developers.

Another Microsoft partner, BBC, is building a new version of its iPlayer to take advantage of the Mesh technology. In a demonstration at PDC, Anthony Rose, head of online media at the BBC, showed how content stored on an individual's desktop PC iPlayer could be instantly synced with devices in the Live Mesh.

"This lets us focus on the broadcast propositions and creating great consumer propositions, and we leave all the underlying hard stuff to Microsoft to take care of over those vast server complexes," Rose said.

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