I’m Amit Mital, General Manager of a great team of people that has created some really interesting technology that I’m excited to tell you about – Live Mesh.
There’s been a bunch of buzz about “the mesh” since Ray Ozzie alluded to it at last month’s MIX Conference. As Ray said there, we’ve been exploring the concept of “the mesh” for a couple of years now.
We started by asking ourselves a series of questions about our own digital lifestyle experiences, and examining the role of the web in our lives. We examined many of the ways the web is becoming more central to us – both workstyle and lifestyle. We’re friending, twittering, digging, tagging and linking to stay in touch, share photos, be entertained, meet new people, express our opinions, learn, and the list goes on.
Devices are how we interact in this new “web connected” world and we use a variety of them, including PCs, laptops, media devices, phones, digital picture frames, game consoles, music players and the list grows at every CES. However, as we discover, adopt and use more of these digital devices, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the people, information and applications we depend on in sync.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got two work laptops, a home PC, a SmartPhone, a Media Center, and a growing list of new devices. Unfortunately, at least initially, every new device I add makes my life a little harder not easier. There have been countless times where I’ve been in a situation where “that file is on my work machine” or “that photo is on my SmartPhone” or “I can’t access it because I’m offline.”
It can be frustrating for users and don’t even get me started on how hard this new world is for developers.
We looked on the Horizon
So two years ago when we began our journey, we started from a there-has-to-be-a-better-way perspective and asked ourselves questions like, “How can we make this multi-device world easier for users and developers?” As we started thinking about this, we brainstormed some “what if?” scenarios.
What if we could provide:
· “Unified Device Management” – enabling your devices to report into a common service, for status, for health, or to report their location.
· “Unified Data Management”- or the transparent synchronization of files, folders, documents & media, the bi-directional synchronization of arbitrary feeds, of all kinds, across your devices and the web.
· “Unified Application Management” – for centralized web-based deployment of apps across the devices you own.
· “Centralized Management” – where you could configure and personalize your devices and remote control into them from just about anywhere.
As our team set out to explore these areas we realized we had a unique opportunity to use the magic of software and internet services to connect and bring devices together into your own personal “mesh” enabling them to work in concert with one another.
In order to deliver these capabilities, we had to tackle a series of complex problems and computer science challenges. We did, and today it’s my pleasure to share and announce the Live Mesh – Technology Preview.
This new software-plus-services platform enables PCs and other devices to “come alive” by making them aware of each other through the Internet. Our goal is to provide a “just works” experience by making it much easier to access the information, applications, people, and devices you care about.
Our design goals for Live Mesh are to have…
· …your data and applications available from anywhere
· …the people you need to connect with just a few clicks away for sharing and collaborating
· … the information you need to stay up-to-date and always be available
We’re achieving these design goals by combining the power of ‘cloud services,’ with the convenience and rich experience of your many devices.
The Platform is the Core
I’ve spent some time talking about the experiences we want to enable, but what really differentiates Live Mesh is that it’s a platform. That’s no surprise, I guess, since building platforms is part of Microsoft’s DNA, and our team is really comprised of a bunch of platform specialists.
We started with a vision of creating an open, comprehensive and accessible platform that enables developers to tackle increasingly complex problems no matter the device, connection or experience.
Our guiding principles were:
· Services Are the Core of the Platform – the Live Mesh platform exposes a number of core services including some Live Services that can all be accessed using the Live Mesh API; these include Storage (online and offline), Membership, Sync, Peer-to-Peer Communication and Newsfeed.
· Same API on Clients and in the Cloud – the programming model is the same for the cloud and all connected devices, which means a Live Mesh application works exactly the same regardless of whether it’s running in the cloud, in a browser, on a desktop, or on a mobile device.
· Open, Extendable Data Model – a basic data model is provided for the most common tasks needed for a Live Mesh application; developers can also customize and extend the data model in any fashion that is needed for a specific application.
· Flexible Application Model – developers can choose what application developer model best fits their needs.
Today the Technology Preview provides access to the foundational experience that exposes the core functionality and common gestures of the platform. In the near future, we’ll provide more details on the platform including access to an SDK. Nevertheless, today you can get some deeper details on the platform directly from Mike Zintel, Director of Service Infrastructure for Live Mesh. In addition, head over to Channel 9 where throughout this week we’ll be posting some great videos from the team, on topics like Architecture, Sync and Storage, and the Developer Platform.
Take a Quick Peek
I’ve spent some time discussing the why and what of Live Mesh. Now I’d like to give you a brief overview of how it works.
Several times I referenced how Live Mesh enables “your devices to work together.” But how? With Live Mesh, your experience starts by adding devices to your personal “device mesh” and making them aware so they work together. This is what “software-plus-services” is all about, devices, software and services working together, on your behalf.
Adding a device to your mesh is easy; after you sign up for the service using your Windows Live ID (I’ll tell you how later), you’ll be directed to your personal Live Mesh page to get started. Here you can add, manage and remove your devices.
After you add a device (or several) to your mesh, you’ll notice a few, small changes on the device, in particular, a new notifier icon in your Windows Taskbar.
When you hover over it, you’ll see a pop up, that includes a list of the devices, news feeds and folders in your mesh.
Now the fun begins. With a couple of mouse clicks, you can easily add an existing (or new) Windows folder to your mesh. As you add a folder to your mesh, it quickly replicates it to your other mesh devices. “Cool,” you might say, “but there are other products that do this, too.”
You’re right, but it gets more interesting. We’ve integrated Live Mesh into your Windows experience by including a “fly out” Mesh Bar next to Windows Explorer.
The Mesh Bar gives you additional information about the Live Mesh folder, such as user activities and notifications. So in addition to having your devices “work together,” you can also stay uptodate with any changes.
So Live Mesh enables your devices to work together and allows you to add and sync files and folders across your mesh of devices. But the team didn’t stop there; we took it a step further by adding “social” elements.
With Live Mesh, it’s easy to share the contents of folders with others. For example, I can create a folder called “Vacation Pictures” and with a few mouse clicks easily share it with friends (and the devices in their mesh). When I do, Live Mesh keeps me up to date on what’s happening with that folder by notifying me of any changes (e.g. new files, removal of files, user comments, etc.). We call this News and it’s another way Live Mesh makes an otherwise ordinary folder “come alive” for users.
Let me quickly share with you two other things in Live Mesh: Live Desktop and Live Remote Desktop. While the two have similar names, each doessomething different, but both add amazing conveniences. Live Desktop enables you to easily access your mesh anytime, anywhere, using only a Web browser.
Live Remote Desktop builds on the capabilities of Windows Remote Desktop, giving you the ability to directly access and control other devices within your mesh. So, if you need to access and control your home PC, it’s no problem. With one click from any device in your mesh, you’re in control.
I’ve just briefly highlighted some early experiences the underlying Live Mesh platform provides. There’s plenty more. For a quick tour of the Live Mesh experience, visit www.mesh.com to view some screencasts or drop by http://on10.net to see a couple team members, Noah and George, talk more about the experience.
Getting “Into the Mesh”
Before you get started, I want to give you some other tips and information.
First, this is a limited Technology Preview and we’re seeking your feedback. There’s some pent-up demand, so we appreciate your patience and understanding as we scale the system. We’ll do our best to scale as quickly as possible, but we also want to make sure the system is reliable and responsive.
Second, initially the user interface will be English only and we are hosting the service from our United States data center; this may have impact on some users. We’re working on this, and will announce broader availability in the coming months.
Third, this Technology Preview initially supports Windows (Vista & XP) machines but our vision of your device mesh extends far beyond this. In the near future, we’ll add support for the Mac and mobile devices, and then we’ll build upon that foundation.
It’s been a fun and interesting journey for the team and we’re excited to hear what you think. I hope you take the opportunity to learn more by visiting www.mesh.com.
As I mentioned at the outset, Live Mesh has been developed by a great group of individuals who I have the privilege of managing. Many of them are excited to tell you about what they’ve been creating, so I invite you to visit the team blog at www.mesh.com/blog or stop by Channel 8, Channel 9 and Channel 10 to see a series of “deep dive” videos. Also, you might want to check out Jon Udell’s interview of Ray Ozzie on Channel 9. Ray discusses his role as Chief Software Architect, and provides his perspectives on utility computing and Live Mesh.
We hope this marks the beginning of an ongoing dialog with you that spawns lots of new ideas and opportunities. We appreciate your interest in Live Mesh and look forward to “meshing it up” with you.