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Microsoft's other new platform: Live Framework

Expected to be a big deal at PDC, the developer component of Live Mesh finds itself overshadowed some by Windows Azure, the cloud-based OS that the mesh sits on top of.

LOS ANGELES--While it was Windows Azure that got much of the attention, Microsoft also released another important platform at this week's Professional Developers Conference.

Microsoft's Live Framework is essentially the developer piece of Live Mesh. It's what lets developers use the mesh technology to add online components to their desktop applications, or conversely, to give online applications an offline component.

The software maker had said that this would be coming when it unveiled Live Mesh this spring, but its actual launch was somewhat overshadowed by the discussion of Windows Azure on Monday. The Live Framework is itself built on top of Windows Azure, but exists one layer up from the core operating system, using Microsoft's prebuilt layers for things like contact management and other services.

As with Azure, the Live Framework is at an early stage. Microsoft at this point is mainly hoping that developers start experimenting with the tools, as opposed to building broadscale programs.

'"It's not ready for shipping a production app," Corporate Vice President David Treadwell said in an interview this week.

Microsoft did show several concept applications at the PDC, including efforts from Blockbuster and BBC, which showed a version of its iPlayer that used Mesh to help people see what programs their friends were watching.

As for which Microsoft applications will be mesh-enabled, Microsoft has not said a ton. Treadwell did say that Windows Live Wave 4, the release after this fall's update, will feature components of the mesh technology.

"We're working on integrating with the next major release of Windows Live," he said.

Neither Treadwell nor Windows Live general manager Brian Hall would give many more details, though when I suggested a mesh-ified version of Windows Live Photo Gallery might be in the works, Treadwell said "That's the class of thing that we're pondering."

Live Mesh, meanwhile, is shifting this week from a technology preview to a full-fledged beta, adding native support for Macs and Windows Mobile phones, among other new features.

Microsoft is also opening up the identity component for the Live Framework, meaning developers won't necessarily have to use Microsoft's Live ID to take advantage of other mesh components. Microsoft got a fair bit of attention at the show for its cooperation with Live ID, but it also said it will allow businesses to handle their own credentials, using Active Directory.

"The Microsoft Services Connector lets businesses take advantage of Live services, while letting the business use its active directory to handle authentication," Treadwell said.

Provided businesses can make sure only employees have access, Treadwell said, many are deciding it's OK for the data to live outside the firewall. "People are opening up to that."

Some businesses at the PDC also expressed interest in perhaps having their own storage piece used as well--something Microsoft will have to sort out for Live Framework.