SAN FRANCISCO--The launch of Live Mesh this week offers the clearest understanding yet of what Microsoft's Windows Live Platform group has been working on for the last two years.
And yet, Live Mesh is just the tip of the iceberg. It's only one of the projects that 400 or so people are working on in Microsoft's Live Platform group.
"Mesh is a big part of the platform; it is not the entire platform," David Treadwell, the vice president in charge of the group, said in an interview at the Web 2.0 Expo 2008 here.
Trying to make sense of that platform is no easy task, however. Treadwell said he likes to think of the Live components as falling into three categories. At the top layer are finished services, things like Windows Live Hotmail or Windows Live Photo Gallery.
Below that is the area Treadwell focuses on--platform services. That includes things like Live Mesh as well as the core contacts and messaging engine as well as Live ID authentication. About 100 of the 400 or so people working in Treadwell's group are devoted to Live Mesh.
At the deepest level are a set of basic utility computing services--things like computation and storage. Today, only Microsoft uses its data centers in this way, but Treadwell suggested that will change.
"Today it's just Microsoft," he said. "We're not going to talk about future plans but there is a lot of opportunity at that layer."
To offer an analogy, Treadwell suggested that the utility computing piece is akin to the hardware and Windows kernel on the desktop, while the platform services piece is similar to the Win32 application programming interfaces. Finished services are similar to applications.
I also talked with Treadwell about all the things that are on his "to do" list with Live Mesh--adding support for more devices, opening it up to developers, making it enterprise-friendly and, last but not least, coming up with a business model to pay for things.
There wasn't a whole lot new on the device front--Macs and Windows Mobile are next up, but no firm timetable. There should be a software development kit in time for this year's Professional Developers Conference.
"We should have a pretty solid set of stuff directly useful to developers," he said.
On the corporate front, Treadwell reiterated that although the Live Mesh technology preview is not necessary enterprise-friendly, the final product will be. For example, businesses that want employees' Mesh documents to stay on their own servers will be able to do so.
"Most companies will want to be careful about where their private data is stored," he said. Likewise, businesses may want more security in place around the remote desktop feature. Once you are connected to a machine, you have full access to anything that machine can do."
On the business model front, Treadwell insisted that Microsoft is itself still figuring that out. He did add that there is a financial benefit to Microsoft just in making the prospect of making it simpler and more attractive for people to own more devices and multiple PCs.
"We're looking at other ways to have a business model," he said. In addition to subscription and advertising, he also mentioned the possibility of including Mesh as part of a higher-end license for some of Microsoft's other products.