What is Windows Live anyway?

Every time I meet someone external to Microsoft these days I ask them about Windows Live: what does it mean to you? What do you understand Windows Live is all about? It's really interesting to hear their views, and in virtually every case when I talk to them about Windows Live they're surprised by its capabilities ie what they've heard is just a small part of what Windows Live is really about.

Why is this? Well, we haven't really been pushing very hard to get people aware of Live, information has just kind of seeped out while we build the platform. Oh and I'm not about to change that right now, but I think it's worth putting a stake in the ground about where we are with Live. It will be interesting to revisit this post in 12 month's time because I think by then the noise level will be significantly higher. But let's stay in the here-and-now - so where are we?

My completely unofficial definition and story around Windows Live goes something like this:

Windows Live is a set of online services that you can either use directly, or build on, extend, or incorporate in your applications. We put you at the centre and look at the relationships and information that's important to you, the idea being that software - in the form of Windows Live services - can help you make the most of those relationships and can give you seamless access to data across devices. And of course, it's always up to date because it's online - hence "Live".

Which means two things:

1) To really "get" what Windows Live is able to do for you, you need to understand the services that it offers

2) As a developer, you need to know how to use these services effectively (ie as described above: build on, extend, incorporate in your apps)

On the first point about what the services are: We're tackling the provision of services in two ways - 1) by repositioning a number of our existing online services to adhere to the Live principles described above ("all about you", "relationships and data that's important to you" etc), and 2) by creating new services.

Some of the existing services we're repositioning are things like hotmail, instant messenger, and MSN spaces. And some of the new services can be found at http://ideas.live.com.

All of which might be a lot to get your head around, so let me point you at some parts of Live that you as a developer might find useful (I'm assuming it's mostly developers that read this blog, but actually most of this applies to non-devs too): If I was starting to get into Live today I'd look at two things in particular:

1) Gadgets on Live.com. These are pretty simple to create if you're familiar with Javascript (essentially they're JS and XML based). Take a look at http://microsoftgadgets.com/livesdk/index.htm for details.

2) A mashup using Virtual Earth.

Let me talk a little about Virtual Earth (or VE as we call it): VE is an online mapping solution that has public APIs that you can use to build mashups. The level of detail is impressive, especially the aerial photography. In fact, we're pretty sure that it's the best you can get online in the UK. We also believe that our API is pretty simple to use compared to other services out there, and doesn't require you to sign up or register. Take a look at the SDK here: http://dev.live.com/virtualearth/sdk/

So what is "Live Local" then, isn't that also a mapping service? Yes it is, Live Local is built on top of VE and provides you with additional services like local business listings from Thompson Local. Take a look at Live Local at http://local.live.com.

One final URL for you to be aware of: For developers, the best place to go for information regarding Windows Live is http://dev.live.com. It's our developer portal for Live.

I'll post some more entries re Live over the coming months. It's an important area to know about and will become increasingly important over the next couple of years so worth being aware of.