Some thoughts about the convergence of Windows Live, Office Live and Mesh
Mary-Jo Foley is reporting that Windows Live, Office Live and Live Mesh are now part of the same organisation:
- Microsoft moves Live Mesh under Windows chief Sinofsky
- Microsoft to merge Windows Live and Office Live
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:
- If http://skydrive.live.com becomes the window to your online storage what happens to the Live Desktop at http://www.mesh.com?
- Office Live Workspace offers an Office toolbar addin that enables one to save Office documents directly to the cloud. Will this go away with the advent of synchronisation offered by Mesh?
- I have a Windows Live profile at http://cid-550f681dad532637.profile.live.com/ and an Office Live profile at https://officeliveworkspacecommunity.com/user/Profile.aspx?UserID=3415. Will these be combined into one?
- Probably the biggest question of all, will the Windows Live, Live Mesh and Office Live brands disappear only to be consumed by something else?
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.