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4/23/2008
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With Live Mesh, Microsoft Admits Web Is Now Central To Computing

Ray Ozzie says Microsoft's software and services endeavor is a shift from its PC roots and key to sharing content and data over a number of devices.

In announcing Live Mesh, a broad software, services and development platform that aims to use the Web as a vehicle to synchronize and share data and content among devices and people, Microsoft has finally admitted that the PC is no longer the central element of everyone's computing experience.

"The PC era has given way to an era in which the Web is at the center of our experiences," Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie wrote in a memo to the company that Microsoft released last week. "It is our mission in this new era to create compelling, seamless experiences that combine the power of the Internet, with the magic of software, across a world of devices."

Live Mesh, which for now is only available to a limited number of testers, appears to be one of the major parts of this mission. The platform will allow people to easily and automatically synchronize content and data on one PC or device with the Web and any other PC or device, share content and data with other people and remotely access Internet-connected devices with a combination of client software and Web services. It will also allow developers to create offline capabilities and out-of-browser experiences for Web apps, online extensions to offline apps, and synchronization capabilities for both. But Live Mesh is only one piece of Microsoft's admission.

In his memo, Ozzie notes that Microsoft is making significant adjustments to the way it does business to take advantage of the shift toward the Web. "More than two years ago when I wrote the memo entitled The Internet Services Disruption, much of the company was still focused on bringing our Office 2007 and Vista products to market," Ozzie writes. "It was truly 'software', not 'services', that was top of mind."

Microsoft had long had functionality that mixed software and services in offerings like Exchange and Outlook, which have both client and Web experiences, and Office, which polls Office Online for help and custom templates. However, only recently has the company begun to create full Web and service-based experiences for some of its applications available, such as SharePoint Online and CRM Online.

Microsoft has also lagged a bit in adding online collaboration capabilities to applications like Office, which are for now limited there to Office Live and Office Live Workspaces. The company has also fallen far behind Google in Web ads and search, which is one of the main reasons Microsoft recently bid billions in an attempt to acquire Yahoo.

Ozzie's memo doesn't serve as any sort of mea culpa from Microsoft, but instead lays out the company's grand vision for its role on the Web linking information across multiple devices, enabling collaboration, giving businesses and consumers choice about how they want to deploy their applications and providing development tools.

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