May 30, 2006 12:45 PM PDT

Vista revs up peer-to-peer engine

Whenever Windows Vista computers arrive, they will have their own special way of talking to one another.

Microsoft's new operating system, which won't arrive for consumers until early next year, has a new collaboration feature that allows laptops to share information with other nearby machines.

The underlying technology is known as "People Near Me" and is being used by Microsoft for its own software projects and by other developers. The company has built one program based on it into Vista--Windows MeetingSpace--that lets people share and view files.

The new collaboration tools are among a host of features, topped by improved search and new graphics abilities, that Microsoft is hoping will convince people to either upgrade from Windows XP or buy a new Vista-equipped PC. It had hoped to have the new operating system on store shelves in time for the 2006 holiday season, but is now shooting to be ready for a January mainstream launch.

MeetingSpace is designed with a couple of situations in mind. First is the scenario where people meet up at a coffeehouse and want to share data with one another. The other might be at a business, where several people are in a meeting and want to be able to view and edit a presentation together.

"You can just start a session and project onto someone's system," said Mika Krammer, a director in the Windows client unit.

MeetingSpace gallery

The feature requires the laptops to have some form of network connection but does not require Internet access, since the technology uses peer-to-peer connections. Users with most versions of Vista will be able to start a session; those with Home Basic can join a session but not start one of their own.

"We've tried not to exclude anyone from being part of a session," Krammer said.

Similar ad-hoc networks were possible in Windows XP and other versions of the operating system, but with Vista, there is a more robust means for connect nearby users, as well as the built-in MeetingSpace program.

The feature, which had been known as Windows Collaboration, was present in prior test versions of Windows, but Krammer said Microsoft has both renamed it and worked to make it more stable in the Beta 2 version of Vista that came out last week.

Got views on Vista?

Allowing PCs to connect to one another easily does raise security challenges, the main one being that people may be duped into connecting to someone they are not looking to share with. The issue also exists in XP, where peer-to-peer options offer little beyond the name of the network and are listed alongside wireless Internet options.

But with Vista, Microsoft says it has put in place measures to ensure all parties know what they are getting into and are willing participants. People can choose whether to be seen or not in the "People Near Me" feature, and they can also decline or accept any particular invitation. Meanwhile, those hosting a session can choose not to broadcast their meeting and can also require users have a password, to keep out virtual party crashers.

The intent of MeetingSpace is to allow nearby participants to communicate. That means that the technology is good for a gathering where all parties are in the same physical location. But for the case where one or more people are "dialing in" to the meeting, a Web conferencing product like WebEx or Microsoft's LiveMeeting is still needed. There is some capability to invite remote participants if their network supports version 6 of the Internet Protocol (IPv6).

See more CNET content tagged:
P2P, collaboration, participant, session, Microsoft Windows Vista

20 comments

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The Thing is...
... OS/2 WARP has had a similar "peer-to-peer" capability since Version 3.0. (without "Wi-Fi). Is this new wine in an old wine skin!

Re:
"OS/2's peer-to-peer networking is compatible with Microsoft's, but in use they are like night and day. OS/2's peer-to-peer networking is fast and trouble free. OS/2 Warp Server is simply the fastest, most sophisticated general purpose server in existence, and nearly as stable as the best Unix has to offer.

We at Automation Access needed to migrate from Digital Research's multiuser DOS, and expected to use the soon to be released Windows95 from Microsoft. When we received our dealer pre-release, we quickly loaded it in anticipation - and just as quickly decided we didn't want to try to run a business on Win95.

We took a gamble and ordered OS/2 (Warp 3 at the time) and immediately liked it. We have run OS/2 ever since with no temptation to change. We can spend our time trying to keep our Client's Win95 computers working, not our own. We do keep one machine on the network that can be booted into Windows95 so we can use a few occasional programs that don't yet have OS/2 or Linux equivalents (mostly new scanners and cameras).

Our OS/2 workstations now connect to a Linux/Samba server, and connect to the same server over TCP/IP as a Unix/Linux host to run Appgen, a major Unix accounting package. OS/2 gets along very well with other systems, from Linux to mainframes."

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.aaxnet.com/design/os2.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.aaxnet.com/design/os2.html</a>
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Puleese
Nobody gives a rat's a** about OS/2 or any of its "capabilities". It is dead, done, over, give it up.
Posted by J. Blow (193 comments )
Link Flag
Hello? Its 2006
Last time I checked OS/2 is dead to IBM, time to get with the future there guy

I have a laptop running NT 3.51 and man I love it (:
Posted by mcepat (118 comments )
Link Flag
one more thing
Windows 95 machines should be killed, any of them.

Who the hell runs windows 95, at least run windows 2000

Its guys like you that delay vista because MS has to make everything backwards compatible for jerks like you

get the moths from your wallet and at least pay for windows 2000

I wish MS would be more like apple and say the hell with the older os's and just cut you right the frig off
Posted by mcepat (118 comments )
Link Flag
Bonjour....
is a the zero configuration network in Mac OS X that already does this. You can share files or stream music through iTunes using this. It is not in any way a new concept (not even in OS X) and I am surprised that MS is making such a big deal about this. This is only a way of sharing files and services between computers on the same subnet and is definitely not P2P.
Posted by The_Nirvana (104 comments )
Reply Link Flag
P2P
Actually, it does have all the hallmarks of P2P. Decentralized
communications between peers using an overlay routing layer. How
are you defining P2P?

Also, I expect to use this service as much as I use bonjour (I own a
few Macs) which is not at all.
Posted by rapier1 (2722 comments )
Link Flag
Apple
Nobody gives a rat's a** about OS X or any of its "capabilities". It is dead, done, over, give it up.
Posted by kibets (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
On the contrary
Apple is gaining more and more ground in several markets. OS X isn't dead, and yes, it's kicks Windows ass. The word Tuesday aught to be changed to Trollday with morons like you roaming free.
Posted by (461 comments )
Link Flag
Mac OS AKA the creator of the GUI OS
A looser OS for a looser user...
It is clear that you narrow mind won't let you see for what they
is. Without Mac OS X, microsoft wouldn't have anything to make
a lousy copy...
Posted by irisfailsafe (35 comments )
Link Flag
Start to care
The thing is, most of the things I've heard about about Vista are
def a rip-off. Peer-2-peer? I've had for 3 years with my Apple,
and it was the first one I owned. If you don't watch out, you'll be
using a Mac looking Vista. So basically if you don't care about OS
X, you're not going to care about Vista.
Posted by acefrenzy (2 comments )
Link Flag
For those....
who think Vista is a copy of Mac OS X. Ummmm, I am not for sure but I dont think Mac OS X has this.
Posted by cacross (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What are the mechanics of this feature?
It would be nice to know what the specific mechanics of this feature are. For example, gnome has a file sharing feature that does this. It uses WebDAV and multicast DNS (part of Rendevous). Simple, standard, easy. Hopefully Microsoft took a similar approach, but I'm not holding my breath considering their trackrecord.
Posted by jgustafson (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Groove or FolderShare based
..since MS bought both of these companies. MS's R&#38;D is essentially comprised of nothing more than buying great technology and repackaging it. No complaints here. ;)
Posted by Fictia (32 comments )
Link Flag
 

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