Thursday, May 29, 2008

Microsoft's mesh-ianic complex

Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Both Nietzsche and Kanye West famously used these words.

That was the message that came across loud and clear during Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie's talk on Wednesday at the Sanford Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference. Ozzie argued that competition from Google and free and open source software (FOSS) have forced Redmond to innovate instead of resting on their Windows/Office laurels. A cynic might reply that Microsoft has little choice in the matter if it wants to stay in business.

But what I found most interesting about Ozzie's talk was what he said about the future of computing. In a word: mesh. As May Jo Foley blogged at, Ozzie continued to talk up distributed, mesh-like operating systems, possibly beyond Windows. To make that happen, Ozzie stressed the need for software development kits (SDKs) that can be used across many different devices. Just coincidentally, Microsoft is moving in this direction with its much-discussed Live Mesh and accompanying Live Mesh SDK.

Software developers are taking a wait-and-see attitude regarding Live Mesh, but remain hopeful in part because of the success of Visual Studio. As one of them wryly commented to BBC News technology reporter Maggie Shiels, “The proof is in the pudding but at the moment it's all demo-ware and advertising.”

Microsoft has a huge opportunity to earn some serious street-level support in the years to come by meshing well with the likes of Apple, Google and YouTube. An open mesh sandbox – supporting open standards and FOSS – will go a long way to deliver the hearts and minds of developers.

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