Live Mesh Turns Car into Mobile Computing Platform

REDMOND – Dec. 4, 2008 — Ori Amiga’s 12-year-old Porsche doesn’t look out of the ordinary, even if the car has been around the block a few times. But thanks to some custom modifications, this automobile is far from normal. Amiga never rides alone in his car, which he refers to as the “MeshMobile”—his digital life is always riding shotgun.

The MeshMobile is a labor of love stemming from Amiga’s work as principal group program manager of Microsoft’s Live Mesh, which allows you to synchronize all of a person’s information—photos, music, documents, and more – among PCs, notebooks, and soon, mobile phones.

Ori Amiga (right) shows a passenger the details of his “Meshmobile,” a 12-year-old Porsche that Amiga has turned into a digital showcase for Microsoft’s new Live Mesh and Live Services framework, which link a person’s photos, music, documents, and much more.

Live Mesh itself is part of what Microsoft calls Live Services, one of the building blocks of Microsoft’s new Azure Services Platform, unveiled in November at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles. The Azure Services Platform is a “cloud” platform hosted at Microsoft data centers. It’s designed to give developers and others the ability to easily develop and scale up applications that, among other benefits, can run on a wide variety of devices.

With the Live Services and Live Mesh components of the Azure Services Platform, software developers now have a tool to find new and useful ways to link people, data, and digital gadgets. Or, in this case, a very analog Porsche.

At PDC, Live Mesh served as a prime example of what Microsoft’s approach to cloud computing – called software-plus-services – can offer. With Live Mesh, Amiga says, he can connect the four pillars of his digital lifestyle: data; devices; applications; and, through the social interactions software now provides, people. Live Mesh and Live Services offer the pipeline through which information flows to devices, friends, and coworkers. It’s an idea that’s simultaneously simple and powerful, Amiga said: The ability to be in complete control of your information anywhere, on any device.

As Amiga puts it, everyone on the team is excited about all things Mesh-related, and that’s how the MeshMobile was born. “I spend a ton of time in my car. I’m kind of a motoring guy,” Amiga says. “I wanted the experiences I have with software at home with me in my car. The idea was bringing the goodness of the Mesh into the automotive environment to see what we could do.”

Amiga spent a month on the hardware design, solving problems such as sunlight readability, voltage regulations, and space constraints (“my car is pretty small,” he says). He needed an interface that would be easy to use and see, in order to avoid any Mesh-related accidents on the road. It took a lot of fabrication, but the MeshMobile looks as if it shipped from Porsche’s factory with the Live Mesh touch screen already installed.

The software, though, is where the excitement is. At his fingertips, Amiga has instant access to his huge and growing music collection. If he adds an album at home, it’s available in his car the next time he starts the ignition. The MeshMobile is GPS-equipped, and when in motion it’s “dropping GPS tracks into the Mesh” so that his friends can find where he is on Virtual Earth. Amiga also can quickly check the weather and—when stuck in traffic, of course—open Internet Explorer and do some browsing. If traffic on Highway 520 (a busy freeway near the Redmond Microsoft campus) is actually moving, an audio synthesizer will read his e-mail to him over the speakers.

The Live Mesh touchscreen puts Amiga’s digital world at his fingertips.

Ultimately, the idea behind the MeshMobile is to prove that the connected experience Live Mesh offers isn’t limited only to phones and PCs. “Hopefully this will spark the imagination and get creative people out there building similar stuff,” Amiga says of the MeshMobile.

Microsoft’s new Live Services and Live Mesh tools can do much more than link automobiles to a music collection, of course. As part of the Azure Services Platform, they’re the digital plumbing software developers can use to link any number of digital data sources, notebooks and phones and other pieces of hardware, and the people that need that data every day. The MeshMobile is the one of what could be thousands of new applications based on Live Mesh and Live Services.

Although created as something of a hobby project, the MeshMobile embodies the power of having your digital life on demand. Through Live Mesh, Amiga can tap into the data pipeline and have access to all his information as he cruises around Seattle.

“Live Mesh (and Live Services) provide so many opportunities,” Amiga says. “Really, it all boils down to data. Data, data, data. You have devices that produce data and devices that consume data. You take a photo with your digital camera, and you want to render it on your mom’s digital picture frame halfway across the world.” Microsoft’s new cloud applications let you do that. The help break down what Amiga calls “digital islands.” From anywhere, on an array of devices, you can access anything you want.

Even when you’re in the driver’s seat, instead of on your sofa.

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