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Live Mesh: Microsoft's Theory of Everything

In the world of theoretical physics, the Theory of Everything is a long-sought, hypothetical model that would elegantly explain and link all known physical phenomena, from the minute and unpredictable world of quantum mechanics to the vast energies and scale that define the still-evolving study of cosmology. It would finally bind gravity into the same system as the strong nuclear, weak nuclear and electro-magnetic forces. Our whites would be whiter and our brights would be brighter.

But like so many things in life that seem almost too good to be true, the Theory of Everything has proven hard to achieve. The area of research has even had its own Cold Fusion moment when a paper written by erstwhile academic physicist and now semi-employed surfer dude A. Garrett Lisi drew attention for its exceedingly simple effort to solve the Theory of Everything.

As it happens, Microsoft is chasing its own Theory of Everything in the form of Live Mesh. The effort could help Microsoft break through long-standing boundaries that have prevented users from freely tapping their data and applications on PCs, appliances and devices of every stripe.

As RDN contributing editor John Waters reports from the Live Mesh announcement and demo at the Web 2.0 Expo this week in San Francisco, Live Mesh is a cloud-centric data synchronization and collaboration services effort that offers a consumer play on Microsoft's accelerating Software + Services (S+S) strategy.

"In a nutshell, Live Mesh allows individuals, their devices and their data to become aware of one other, and establish networks to permit file synchronization across all of it," industry analyst Neil Macehiter told Waters after the demo.

Live Mesh has been two years in the making and is widely credited to the hide-and-seek visionary genius of Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie. In fact, this launch may end up being remembered as the true beginning of the Ozzie era at Microsoft, when the company stopped talking about open systems and interoperability and really did something strategic about it.

Notably, Live Mesh promises a cross-platform development environment. Developers can craft Live Mesh-aware services and applications in Java, Flash, Ruby, Python and numerous other non-.NET languages. The Mesh Operating Environment that undergirds Live Mesh services hews to standard fare like the Atom Publishing Protocol, JSON and RSS. The universe of supported devices and hardware is expected to be diverse, as well --though today, support is limited to just Windows XP and Vista.

But let's not get carried away here. Developers can expect Visual Studio, .NET languages like C# and VB.NET, and rich Internet application (RIA) platforms like Silverlight to emerge as first-class citizens in the Live Mesh universe. What's more, as RDN columnist Greg DeMichillie writes in his latest column, which will appear in a future issue of RDN: "Once a developer builds an application on top of Live Mesh, they are beholden to Microsoft in perpetuity."

Obviously, it's very early in the Live Mesh cycle yet, and in the months to come we'll see expanding platform support. But I'll be looking forward to hearing a lot more about the direction Microsoft intends to take with what amounts to Microsoft's Theory of Everything.

What are your impressions of Live Mesh and what are some of your biggest concerns? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 04/24/2008

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