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Microsoft meeting yields hints of 'Rio' streaming service

Microsoft execs' pleas for silence and secrecy didn't stop attendees of the company's annual meeting from sharing tidbits about new products and technologies in the pipeline.

Mary Jo Foley
Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network.
Mary Jo Foley
3 min read
Microsoft signage

The annual Microsoft company meeting has served as a showcase for many teams at the company for their near-term wares.

Even though it's open to all employees, Microsoft executives expect (or at least hope) that the Softies will be mindful enough not to tweet (thanks @m3sweatt), blog, or share with others the four-plus-hour-long internal presentation. And almost every year, information still leaks.

This year, Microsoft execs' latest promises about a single app store leaked. I've received conflicting information now as to whether Microsoft executives actually said whether the unified store will be part of the next version of Windows. (And given Microsoft's new cadence, exactly what "the next version of Windows" is considered to be remains rather murky. Is it Windows 8.1 with the Spring GDR update? Windows 8.5? Windows 9?)

There were other leaks from this year's meeting, too. A demo during the September 26 meeting by David Treadwell, who is now the head of program management in Microsoft's new OS engineering group, demonstrated what The Verge called its own "cloud gaming service." Microsoft demonstrated streaming Halo 4 to a Surface and a Windows Phone at "Xbox-level visual quality," from what I've heard.

That streaming service is code-named Rio, one of my contacts said. (Its former code name is Ridgeway, another of my sources added.)

Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott added a few more tidbits about the Rio demo from his sources:

The firm noted that latency (when streaming from Microsoft's Tukwila, Wash., data center) was down to 45 milliseconds, which is probably OK for simple single-player gaming but is in fact pretty high for real-time multiplayer gaming. But here's a secret benefit of this technology: Microsoft might use this to solve the backward-compatibility problem of the Xbox One, which cannot play Xbox 360 games: It could simply stream these titles to customers.

I'm wondering if this streaming technology will be applied to more than just games. Maybe Rio is also key to how Microsoft will allow users to stream applications like Office. I've blogged before about "Mohoro," which is allegedly Microsoft's "desktop as a service" offering under development. Maybe Rio figures in here somehow, or would provide Microsoft with an alternative way to deliver Windows and Office to users as a streaming service? (Just guessing on this part.)

The Verge's Tom Warren also noted that Microsoft demonstrated a future Office tool, code-named Office Reader, which is designed for "consuming different types of content," including PDFs, e-books and textbooks.

Office Reader sounds like an extension of Microsoft's focus on "active reading." Perhaps it's "Moorea" -- a long-rumored extension to Microsoft's OneNote product that some had expected to debut as part of Office 2013.

While OneNote is focused on notes and notes about content, Moorea is said to be more focused on the presentation, collection, and curation of the content. It was almost like the missing link between OneNote and PowerPoint. While users currently create Office content in the form of slide decks and spreadsheets, what would authoring and storing content look like if deliverables were meant to be consumed in digital form? That is supposedly the guiding principle behind Moorea.

In the Microsoft reorg memo from July 2013, CEO Steve Ballmer called out plans for something that sounded like Moorea:

We will ensure that the tools handle multimedia (photos, videos, text, charts, and slides) in an integrated way and natively online. These documents/Web sites will be easily sharable and easily included in meetings. They will offer complex options such as imbedded logic and yet be easy to author, search, and view. These documents will be readable from a browser, but the experience will be infinitely better if read, annotated, or presented with our tools.

I hear I even got a shout out at this year's company meeting by Surface Chief Panos Panay. Two mentions in a week by Panay (with the first being during this week's Surface 2 launch in New York.) I need to make sure to keep leaking more Surface road map info to ensure I get 15 more minutes of fame...

This story originally appeared as "Microsoft company meeting: More on Rio, Moorea and Remix" on ZDNet.