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When will Microsoft's Live Mesh matter?

This week, I asked some of the executives and teams participating in Microsoft's consumer open-house showcase in New York about how and when they planned to start making use of Live Mesh. The stammers and blank stares I got back said a lot to me.

It was April 2008 when Microsoft rolled out a first beta of its Live Mesh synchronization/backup software. The promise was Live Mesh would help users more seamlessly integrate ther PCs, phones, digital picture frames, Xbox consoles -- the whole gamut -- and not just devices from Microsoft. It sounded almost as though Live Mesh was a precursor to, if not the heart of, the whole three-screens-and-a-cloud strategy Microsoft execs have been increasingly touting.

But maybe not. This week, I asked some of the executives and teams participating in Microsoft's consumer open-house showcase in New York about how and when they planned to start making use of Live Mesh. The stammers and blank stares said a lot to me.

I asked Robbie Bach, the President of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division about how and when he expected teams in his unit to take advantage of Live Mesh. He didn't have a whole lot to say. He noted that Live Mesh is more plumbing/infrastructure than something Microsoft plans to offer as a new product or service directly to consumers.

"My Phone (Microsoft's new Windows Mobile service for provisioning and securing phones) is not using all of Mesh today," Bach said. Sometime, Microsoft could use Mesh to help replicate files and other information across multiple devices, he said. But that's going to happen "tomorrow," Bach said.

Not to be a contrarian, but I'm actually not sure that My Phone is using Live Mesh today, either. I asked Aaron Woodman, Director of Product Management for Windows Mobile about the WinMo team's intentions around Live Mesh and got a similarly vague statement.

"From a techncal standpoint, Live Mesh is important," Woodman said. "But it's more about plumbing. It's not something we will put in front of consumers."

A year ago, members of the Mesh team were contemplating how to make consumer devices like Zune and Xbox part of a user's Mesh. (In other words, to make the kinds of scenarios highlighted in this much-shared Live Mesh marketing/promotional video a reality.) But how and when is this going to happen?

Microsoft has continued to provide beta updates to Live Mesh for the past year and a half. There's a Live Mesh software development kit out there. Testers who are using the Live Mesh beta seem to really love it, from feedback I've gotten. Undeniably, something is changing with Mesh -- strategy and/or technology-wise Microsoft has been moving supporting Live Services components of its Azure cloud environment around as of late. But the Softies claim Live Mesh is alive and well and not a victim of the product/head-count cuts Microsoft has been making.

Given the champion of Live Mesh is none other than Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie himself, you'd think product teams at Microsoft would be falling all over themselves to Mesh-ify their products and services.Maybe Microsoft will have something tangible to show and say at the Professional Developers Conference in November, given that it would be the perfect place to talk about Live Platforms Services and the "Live Mesh Cloud."

But when Mesh will actually figure in Microsoft's products/services line-up is anyone's guess at this point.

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