Microsoft Research social app marries Web, desktop

A new proof-of-concept application from Microsoft's research arm integrates elements from the Windows OS and its Windows Azure cloud infrastructure to let users share files from their desktops with Web users via social networking.

The Social Desktop application marries a Web-oriented sharing model with the desktop and lets users share local files such as photos or videos as easily as they share Web links, according to the Microsoft Research Web site for the prototype.

According to information on the site, Social Desktop allows users to preview desktop-stored files and add social context to them -- such as comments, related items and tags. The preview itself is a Web page with a unique URL, and users can store that on the Web by using Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud-computing infrastructure that is currently in beta.

These files also can be accessed remotely using Social Desktop, and the application lets users search for other people's files as well, according to the site.

From the description on the site, it seems similar to how the Facebook social-networking site allows users to post links, videos and photos on their Facebook pages and add comments and other context to those links.

In addition to leveraging Windows and Windows Azure, the Social Desktop also uses Silverlight, Microsoft's cross-browser runtime and player for sharing multimedia files. Users must be running Silverlight in a browser to view the items that people using Social Desktop choose to share.

A spokesman from Microsoft's public relations firm stressed that Social Desktop is just a research prototype and will not be a feature in Windows 7, nor will it be available for public use.

"The group is just trying to get a research prototype working internally right now," he said via e-mail. "The Web site is just intended to paint the type of scenario they’re looking at."

However, the site describes the application as leveraging "new search features built into Windows 7," so it's possible Microsoft may release it to Windows 7 users at some point.

Microsoft is expected to release Windows 7 either by the end of the year or early next year.

Microsoft has been looking for ways to bring the same experience users have on the Web to the desktop by integrating Web-based applications more and more into Windows. In Windows 7, for example, the company is leaving out the desktop versions of some applications -- such as e-mail, photo-sharing and movie-making programs -- in favor of their Web-based equivalents.

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