Live Framework’s next steps are fuzzy, at best

The last session slot of PDC held an item of personal interest for me: CL26 “The Audience API: Live Framework Present and Future”. Unfortunately, after finishing my conference experience with that session, I’m not much wiser about the Live Framework’s future. Here’s a recap.

First of all, a short backgrounder: In PDC 2008, Live Framework was launched as one element of the Azure platform stack. In the 2009 slides, it has disappeared – and no surprise there, given that the Live Framework SDK CTP was shut down in late summer. At the time it was still alive, the Live Framework story essentially was a superset of the features Live Mesh contained.

While the future of Live Mesh doesn’t seem threatened (see Mary Jo Foley’s post on the matter), Microsoft had pretty little to share in the PDC. The Live Framework talk’s “present” part revolved around the Messenger Web Toolkit (MWT), a minor part of the original Live SDK. While MWT definitely gives sites a chance to take advantage of the Live population, it has nothing to do with the original value proposition behind the Live Framework: To enable data and apps to be shared across people and devices.

And unfortunately, Todd Manion’s “Future” part of the Live Framework was even muddier. He demonstrated a trivialized Wine Cellar application with Live SDK based data sync. The object model paralleled reasonably closely what we saw in the Live Framework SDK, but it was all based on synchronizing files. In his application, wine bottles were represented as text files contained in folders. In the original Live Framework, materializing synchronized mesh items to the disk was but one opportunity, and the framework was geared towards open data storage and synchronization.

File sync in focus, and no next steps in sight

I talked very briefly with Manion after the presentation, and he confirmed that the CTP experience pointed that the most lucrative scenario would be file sync, thus justifying their focus on making it very straightforward for application developers. Very well, I’ll take that – but at the same time, I’m somewhat dubious if this will be sufficient to make Live Fx stand tall enough to remain interesting.

The strong point of Live Fx’s resource model is the ability to do controlled sharing of data between users. Right now, the developer story for SQL Azure and Azure storage seems to advance in reasonably long leaps. If Live Framework doesn’t deliver on its original vision soon, will it actually have an edge in the competition of developer mindshare? This is particularly true as the rise of claims-based authentication makes it ever-easier to implement the sharing and access control part yourself.

Manion dubbed the team’s presence as “muted”, and I tend to agree. The guys had a single underlength session at the last session slot. He was also very careful as to not promise anything. It looks like a Sinofskyan approach to publicity has taken over the Live Services and Mesh teams. No vision is shared until its implementation is on a reliable basis. Fair enough, and tends to work with largish projects where the development rate succeeds to surprise the market. With a smaller project, it’s hard to garner interest without an open dialogue.

As for the Live Services stack, we can only guess whether or not there actually is a vision behind this muteness. The keynotes promised more details in the spring, so looking forward to MIX10 now. At any rate, I wish the team good luck.

November 20, 2009 · Jouni Heikniemi · One Comment
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Cloud

One Response

  1. Heikniemi Hardcoded » Live Mesh dying soon – some saved by Live Sync, some not - June 14, 2010

    […] there’s none of that. In August 2009, the Live Framework developer tools were cut. In PDC 2009, the promises were already watered down to file sharing. In this announcement, remote desktop stays, but much of the platform independency is stripped off. […]

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