Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, words and deeds

Some thoughts about the convergence of Windows Live, Office Live and Mesh

with 10 comments

Mary-Jo Foley is reporting that Windows Live, Office Live and Live Mesh are now part of the same organisation:

These are interesting developments and forebode what we can expect from these various offerings in the not-too-far-off future.

 

One of the chief complaints about these various offerings has been that Microsoft now offer too many ways to store all your documents online; Office Live (in the shape of Office Live Workspaces), Windows Live (in the shape of Skydrive) and Live Mesh all collectively offer online storage totalling over 30GB but the problem has been that they are all disparate and disconnected. To illustrate the point:

  • its not possible to use Office Live to edit documents stored on Skydrive or Mesh
  • its not possible to sync the contents of your Skydrive to your own computers
  • its not possible to upload your photos from Windows Live Photo Gallery to any Microsoft property other than Skydrive
  • its not possible to email your friends a link to a file that is stored on Live Mesh like you can with Skydrive and Office Live Workspaces
  • Live Mesh has a soon-to-be-public API underneath it which will enable developers to use Microsoft’s online services in their own offerings whereas Skydrive and Office Live Workspaces do not.

Any unification has to begin at the infrastructural level and in the case of Windows Live/Office Live/Live Mesh that means offering a single place for online storage; once everything is stored in the same place then each of the features mentioned above will be available for any file. I believe that that place will be Skydrive and here’s why:

  • Skydrive is a fully released product whilst Office Live Workspaces (its still in beta) and Live Mesh (still beta) are not.
  • Skydrive’s raison d’etre is online storage. That is not true of Office Live Workspaces whose key feature is collaboration around Office documents and neither is it true of Live Mesh whose key feature is data synchronisation.
  • Skydrive is more of an established brand that is well understood and I would argue that that is because (as we say in the UK) it does what it says on the tin. I also perceive Skydrive to generally be a well-appreciated service –I see evidence of many people around the web using it- so Microsoft won’t want to lose the goodwill that the brand has built up.
  • Other services already rely on Skydrive for storage (i.e. http://photos.live.com)

Unifying these three services will have ramifications though:

  • Office Live Workspaces has the notion of a workspace being a focal point for storage and collaboration. A workspace is somewhat similar to a folder that we are all familiar with (and which Skydrive and Mesh both have) except that there are no sub-folders; a workspace is essentially a flat list of files. How can the notion of workspaces be kept without compromising the underlying storage? Solving that one will not be easy thus I suspect that a Workspace will morph into something akin to a “virtual view” across a subset of the files in your Skydrive, exposing them as a single unit of collaboration just like a workspace is today. And if this is the case, will the notion of a workspace be extended to places other than Office Live as well?
  • The Live Framework is the API I mentioned above that underpins Live Mesh and is clearly going to become the means by which developers will, if permitted, be able to get access to all the data that Microsoft hold about someone. This is emphasized in the Live Framework overview diagram which I have talked about before (Live Services move into the Live Framework); I have highlighted in red some of the personal information that is envisaged to be available:

[Click for larger diagram]

I wonder if we will ever get to the point where a single portal is offered that offers access to all of the features of these services (and possibly others) in one place. Google do exactly that at http://www.google.com whereas with Microsoft http://home.live.com seems to be the place where we go today, but will that be true in the future? Would http://www.live.com or http://home.microsoft.com (which currently redirects to http://www.msn.com/) or even http://www.microsoft.com make more sense?

There are lots of questions still to be answered about this unification of services and I’m glad I’m not the person that has to answer them. I must emphasize that all of this is pure speculation, I don’t know what is going to happen with Live Mesh, Windows Live and Office Live any more than you do.

-Jamie

Windows Live Tags: clubhouse, story, skydrive, mesh

UPDATE: See related follow-up post Windows Live and Office converge

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Written by Jamiet

January 23, 2009 at 10:28 am

Posted in Uncategorized

10 Responses

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  1. Nice blog Jamie. I’d really like to see all the different storage options connected together into one useful product. as you point out, at the moment we have skydrive for easily uploading and accessing files. But some of us also have live mesh which is pretty much exactly the same except it has a nice desktop style UI. I’m ‘using’ the live mesh beta for mac, but I haven’t really found use for it yet apart from "oh wow that looks really cool".

    Ed

    January 23, 2009 at 11:45 am

  2. I wood like two sea live mesh work with xbox and the zune.And skydrive and windows live sync and live mesh integated all in two one.Office wood nice if it was able two sync up any the the three service that wood great update.

    Joseph

    January 23, 2009 at 12:33 pm

  3. As you say, "all this is pure speculation", that said it will be interesting to see how it evolves. I agree with Joesph below that I also would like to see Xbox and Zune blended into Live Essentials as well. I see this step as a "No brainer" considering Microsoft’s position of wanting to bring all products together into One Suite. Thanks for your blog, it gives us users a lot more insight and discussion into the process coming from Microsoft.

    Bob

    January 23, 2009 at 1:53 pm

  4. Hi Jamie, it appears that the more I get involved with the whole MSN process the more I am getting confused. I believed with some of these "free" services Microsoft offers, things would make it easier on dummies like me, but instead of feeling like Einstein after I discovered some new things and how they work, I now feel that Homer Simpson is my smarter brother. It is much easier to be or get organized with Google. I’ll be looking forward to more of your blogs! Thanks!HD

    Hans

    January 23, 2009 at 3:28 pm

  5. Hans,Interesting comment – and one anyone from Microsoft would find hard to argue with. The challenge has been laid down – let’s see how they respond!Thanks for the comments everyone-Jamie

    Jamie

    January 23, 2009 at 4:23 pm

  6. I don’t agree that there’s a need for MS to converge these storage options, they are 3 unique products, each with there own set of features. It will be for SI’s (like us) to blend these things together, to create our own unique value offerings.The bit that is missing today is that, each of these products is less than it should be… and there’s no clear roadmap for any of them. That’s what ultimately confuses people like me and poor @Hans :-)Let’s take Office Live as an example. Here MS Office team have taken some basic ingredients – WSS, LiveID – and blended them to create a simple collaboration workspace. That’s great. But the UI is clunky; you cannot subscribe to changes on lists; you can’t create folders within lists; search is poor; the experience is ‘varied’ across different browsers. So the overall experience of using Office Live – for anything but the simplest collaboration – is extremely poor.And The same can be said of each of the other two items that you mentioned in your post.That’s all fine… products evolve and (hopefully) get better; we’ve learned that through the last few years with the beta culture that has emerged. But the frustration comes from a lack of discussion from within Microsoft about what the *future* looks like for any of these individual products. I enjoy your futuristic rants about where Live products could go Jamie, they’re fun. But I’d much prefer to hear what Microsoft thinks about the future.

    Darren

    January 23, 2009 at 7:04 pm

  7. great post, i agree with you completly, it’s still to fragmented. I want ti unify it all, make it the same everywhere, that is truly what i want from microsoft, i hope that’s the way it will turn in the not to far off future….

    Nik

    January 24, 2009 at 2:24 am

  8. I think that they will not incorporate live office but rather the 2010 office web apps which allow much better document editing capabilities

    Leo

    March 13, 2010 at 7:00 pm


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