A patent application filed by Microsoft (MSFT) June 19, 2008 and published last Thursday suggests that the company is planning cloud services to configure home networks and provide a number of other maintenance activities, such as user authentication and device provisioning. In other words, it would be an automated way for consumers to let someone remotely manage their home networks.
Remote management is hardly a new concept. Corporations have been using it for at least ten years. But so far as I know, no one has offered comprehensive network management to consumers, who often have a devil of a time getting their networks to work. (Having written a couple of books on home networking in the past, I can attest to the difficulty of walking people through the process.) For Windows machines, even so-called wizards that supposed take users through the process can be difficult to use when something goes wrong. Furthermore, different devices -- a router, external storage, computers -- all require unique set-up procedures.
The application mentions a "web-based service portal" that would provide a standard user interface, using device APIs for access and control. The portal could potentially require user authorization before actually configuring the network.
If successfully implemented, such a cloud service could help further expand home network use and become a popular destination for people who are uncomfortable with the technical details of networking and yet who want to connect multiple computers with other devices. Such an offering would also deliver significant amounts of valuable market information about consumers, what devices they have in their homes, and how they are connecting them.