One noticeable no-show at this week's Microsoft Professional Developers Conference is Live Mesh.
Live Mesh, Microsoft's synchronization service that is the pet project of Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, was one of the main attractions at previous Microsoft developers' conferences. When Microsoft first described the service, it was billed as a way to prove to consumers that Microsoft's Azure cloud would have something of interest to them and not just business customers and developers.
Earlier this year, as part of one of the company's many reorgs, Microsoft moved the Live Mesh team under the Windows/Windows Live group. Since then, things have gone quiet.
At the PDC this week, I (and others) thought Microsoft might give us a progress report on Live Mesh... or a demo of the latest version of it... or a roadmap for it... or something. But no.
I had a chance to ask Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie about Live Mesh during a one-on-one interview with him at the show on November 17. I asked Ozzie why there was nothing about Mesh at the PDC. He said:
"We're pushing the Live platform stuff to Mix. Or I shouldn't actually say Mix, in terms of that, it is going to be spring....The Live stuff and phone stuff basically is out in that time frame.
"But that (Live Mesh) will no longer be discussed in the context of 'Live Mesh,' but rather in 'the Windows Live platform,' which is now, as you know, which it's now part of.
I asked Ozzie a follow-up: If you aren't using Live Mesh any more as a way to get consumers excited about the Azure platform, what's the new plan to push the "commercialization of IT" strategy with Azure? Ozzie's response:
"(T)he reality is -- I know this isn't very sexy -- but I don't think people are really going to be aware that it (Azure) is there. I think when people go to Web sites, they'll just go to a Web site. They won't really know what it's connected to. When they use a phone or a piece of client software or a TV or a cable box that happens to talk to a cloud back end, it will just happen. And the way they will experience it is it will be reliable, it will be fast, it will scale.
"Probably the most important thing is that we live in a very faddish culture,... Whenever there is a service that's backing up something that's very trendy, these things will just happen without any issues. There will be black Friday and everyone wants to just buy their Beanie Baby and they'll be able to."
So if Live Mesh isn't the consumer proof point for Windows Azure, what is? Ozzie said:
"(T)he best example I have is this app that (Microsoft Online Systems Division President) Qi Lu announced at Web 2.0 some weeks ago with Bing/Twitter integration. That came together in a very short time.
"In just a few weeks, a few developers got together and they had the Twitter fire hose, because of our relationship with -- an early relationship with Twitter, and suddenly because of Azure, they were able to ingest this whole thing and start to do some amazing analysis that they could have never done if they had to, let's see, how many machines should we order? When do we get them configured? When can we have rack space in GFS (Microsoft's Global Foundation Services)? Those apps just never would have happened. And that's why I'm so excited about this Dallas stuff because even though it is obscure, it's hard to give compelling examples of how to use that data, once people have the ability to make a discovery based on data and then scale it to lots and lots of data, I think new possibilities are opened up.
"I think consumers are going to experience the benefit of the apps. Just take the H1N1 thing that's going on right now. I'm not sure exactly what the benefit will be, but when there are these large challenges, suddenly some new app may be overlaid on maps or maybe it's an app on a map that brings together some health data with geo data or an industry that you work in or something like that will pop up, and we'll take it for granted at the time when it happens, but it will never have been able to happen without all that data behind it."
When I recently asked some execs in Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division -- the folks behind Windows Mobile and Zune -- about their plans for implementing Live Mesh, I didn't get a sense they had any real, near-term plans (and I don't think they were just being cagey).
I'm really wondering what's going to happen with Live Mesh going forward. Any guesses/hopes?