Today Microsoft is unveiling Ray Ozzie's project, Microsoft Live Mesh, which can best be summed up in the words of Mary Jo Foley - "a Software + Services platform for synchronization and collaboration." In simple terms, I think it's being able to interact with your data anywhere you go across a number of devices. And it's a vision of the web that I really, really like. I think Adobe helps with that vision and empowers developers to help create it but Microsoft as a company singularly has the clout and the brand equity to pull it off. And Live Mesh looks like the first stab.
I don't have an invite yet so I don't know how well it works. Reviews seem mixed, but it's Microsoft, so the first version is kind of a dry run. But this is Ray's baby and it's going to be a core, core part of Microsoft. But in order to make it work, Live Mesh does have to have genuine access points across operating systems and the browser. When you're working with the web you need to be as universal as possible and even though Microsoft still has the lion's share of the market, cross platform is important to the long term success of Live Mesh. So how do you provide a very expressive, Windows-like experience across multiple platforms and operating systems? Silverlight.
I think this is going to be Silverlight's big, big driver. With Silverlight 2.0 and I assume future versions, they're trying to make it more like Windows Presentation Foundation. They're looking to support a bigger subset of the XAML and controls that WPF has. It seems like they're working very hard to bring the development experience and the UI possibilities of Windows to a cross-platform runtime. Why do that if you make all of your money on the operating system? Because Live Mesh is the future and you've got to be able to provide part of that great Windows experience (don't laugh, I love Vista) on many platforms. Live Mesh is cool because it supports so many technologies (including Flash) so it's very platform agnostic, but to appeal to Microsoft developers, they need to provide Microsoft technology and tools. Silverlight will be a great way to let those Microsoft developers quickly start building into the Live Mesh Ecosystem.
I think Live Mesh is a big, interesting step for RIAs. Creating that back end infrastructure to handle collaboration, synchronization, and the cloud means we can start building user interfaces around them. As an RIA fan boy, I'm excited to see what people build on top of Live Mesh because I think it tries to solve the right problem. We should just have access to our data. It shouldn't matter if we're in the browser, on the desktop, or on a device. That's a goal I think both Adobe and Microsoft share and I think the next couple of years are going to be great in unifying the web and getting rid of "web application" versus "browser applications". They're just going to be applications when all is said and done.