Live Sync, Live Mesh, SkyDrive and why patience is a virtue

There has been some confusion recently about conflicting products and services coming out of the Windows Live group.  There’s a good explanation for the confusion but first to give some context.

Last week the FolderShare team both rebranded and launched a new version named Live Sync.  Here’s what Windows Live Sync is in a nutshell:

  • Live Sync is a released product (albeit beta)
  • Live Sync (FolderShare 2.0) will sync files across PC and Mac so you can get access to your important files on different machines. 
  • You can share files and folders with other people. 

Then there’s also SkyDrive too:

  • SkyDrive is a released service
  • SkyDrive gives you storage on the internet
  • SkyDrive allows you to share your files with other people

So let’s see how that compares to Live Mesh.  Here’s what Live Mesh is in a nutshell:

  • Live Mesh is a beta, Live Framework is in Technology Preview
  • Live Mesh will sync files across your Live Desktop (a desktop in the browser that points to your online storage), PC, Mac, Windows Mobile, and many other devices.
  • You can share files and folders with other people.
  • Live Mesh allows you to remotely control Windows PCs
  • Live Mesh is an app built on technology available in the Live Framework
  • Live Mesh has an App Catalog where developers will be able to release their apps
  • Live Mesh enables developers to create apps that work seamlessly online and offline
  • Live Mesh and Live Framework is useful for all kinds of developers; Web developers, windows developers, mobile developers, device developers.

Whilst there is definitely some cross-over with the three products and services above, hopefully it’s clear to see that there is one which stands out as a longer term platform play.  Place your bets.

Why are we even talking about this though?  Why the cross-over in functionality?  Well it’s due to the Ray Ozzie effect.  It’s a good thing though, only if you understand why it’s happening.  Over the past three years Ozzie has been trying to change the culture of the company to one where Microsoft behaves more like a startup.  In start-up mode, free from the politics and cross-team collaboration, Microsoft’s many product teams are able to innovate much faster, delivering more useful, game changing products and services. 

The drawback is that you lose some of the unification and convergence on a single product.  This problem is amplified now due to the nature of the “perpetual beta” where it’s socially acceptable to release test bits for an app or service.

The recent article on Wired that digs into the man that is Ozzie explains the whole thing very well.  David Treadwell who I work with on Live Services, talks about the transition from Gate’s joined up approach to Ozzie’s startup culture.

Ozzie spent a lot of time crafting a different kind of work environment at Microsoft. "He was very intentional about getting stuff done quickly, focusing on the end customer," Treadwell says. Previously, a big part of any development team at Microsoft was making sure its new product worked in lockstep with everything else the company produced. This "unification" criterion was something that Gates had always hammered on. But Ozzie saw that while that approach avoided annoying conflicts, it also tended to smother innovation in the cradle. "This philosophy of independent innovation—really making progress before you pursue serious integration, is something Ray pushed very strongly," Treadwell says. Ozzie's approach was to encourage people to rush ahead and build things. Then he'd have a team of what he calls the spacklers fill in the gaps and get things ready for release.

So in summary, we’ve got cross-over because our teams are innovating, trying out different ways of solving complex problems.  It’s all part of the plan.  There will be unification and convergence – bear with us, we appreciate your patience and we promise it will be worth it.