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4/14/2008
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Live Mesh To Push Microsoft's Synchronization Strategy

Synchronization has become a major theme for Microsoft's online strategy, and the forthcoming launch of Live Mesh at next week's Web 2.0 Conference shows that the company is finally getting ready for more of its "software plus services" coming-out party.

Synchronization has become a major theme for Microsoft's online strategy, and the forthcoming launch of Live Mesh at next week's Web 2.0 Conference shows that the company is finally getting ready for more of its "software plus services" coming-out party.Other than its blue and white circular logo, the only thing we can be sure of about Live Mesh is that it's something that has significant support from top executives like Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie, who fleshed out some tantalizing hints about Microsoft's synchronization strategy last month that were surrounded by more than a dozen mentions of a "mesh" and synchronization.

However, it's not too hard to make some educated guesses about what Live Mesh is all about. Microsoft has a number of public synchronization projects in place, including FeedSync, the Sync Framework, SQL Server Data Services and ADO.NET Data Services (formerly Project Astoria), as well as Windows Live FolderShare and Windows Live SkyDrive. Plus, Ozzie's remarks, which previewed a "bi-directional synchronization of arbitrary feeds of all kinds," give us a clue as to how to put the puzzle together.

FeedSync (which was developed by Ray Ozzie himself) uses the XML-based Atom format to synchronize information such as feeds of photos. The Sync Framework is a full-on data synchronization platform for developers. SQL Server Data Services and ADO.Net (ActiveX Data Objects.Net) Data Services are online data stores and query processing services that can potentially be leveraged for synchronization. Live SkyDrive and Live FolderShare are essentially online storage services for consumers.

Each of these elements could be used by Microsoft to create a polished service that could allow users to choose what data they want to be synchronized with the help of the Internet and always have the most current version of content whenever they access it, regardless of device or location. These elements also could potentially be used by developers and consumers who wish to extend Live Mesh to meet their needs, though I'm not sure how that might look.

Last month at Mix, Microsoft demonstrated an early version of a service that linked together personal contacts across Hotmail, Outlook, a Windows Mobile device, and a non-Microsoft line of business application. I don't know whether this is part of what the company will offer with Live Mesh, but it certainly sounds like the type of scenario something like Live Mesh might be able to offer. Ozzie's comments infer that Microsoft will support synchronizing data on non-Windows platforms like the iPhone, iPod, or Linux PCs, or even non-Microsoft content on the Web, but that's really still unclear since Microsoft isn't talking.

What's also not clear is how deeply Live Mesh will be able to be integrated with Windows and Windows Mobile outside of the browser. I guess we'll have to wait until next week, or even later, to find out. After all, the final version of the Sync Framework isn't even out yet.

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