Microsoft Max – a P2P picture sharing service or viral user acquisition service for Passport?

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Like everyone else who follows RSS readers closely, I downloaded the new Microsoft Max application and started playing around with it. The application is stunning in its presentation and really shows off what you can do with Microsoft’s .NET Framework and, kudos to Microsoft for releasing this as a prototype for future development.

As an RSS newsreader there are limitations (no OPML import/export for one) but it’s the picture sharing feature in the service that has me scratching my head. When you install Max (Windows only), it scans your hard disk for photos that you can add to “lists.” Photos are managed locally and you can do some pretty cool things like the apply a 3D Mantle view shown above. You can also share your photos with others and here’s where it gets strange. Sharing is done via. . . e-mail.

Microsoft Max sends your friend an email invitation to download and install Max which requires a Mircrosoft Passport account. According to the Microsoft Max blog, here’s what happens next (emphasis mine):

When one of your friends opens Max and clicks Other people’s lists, they’ll see an invitation to download your list. They’ll see the list’s title and message, but they won’t see any of the list’s photos.

Once they accept the list, they can use Max to connect to your computer and download the photos. If you’re signed in, they’ll be able to download the photos. If you’re signed out, your friends will see you as offline and they won’t be able to download your photos.

So two Max users then have permissioned access to each other’s Windows file system!

It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of weeks as the early adopter crowd plays around with this. Swapping photos around is going to open up ports all over the place and I’m sure Microsoft will see a blip in new signups to their Passport service as people install the app to try it out. If the service is just a proof-of-concept, imagine what a talented developer could do to extend this service to slide other types of files into the peer-to-peer queue – videos, audio, documents, and software.

How about a version of Max to distribute software patches to Windows?

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