Thursday, 1 May 2008

Live Mesh - Yes! or Mess!? Did Joel Hit or Miss?

Joel just ranted about Ray Ozzie being an "Architectural Astronaut" etc etc...

He makes a couple of good points... But he kinda misses THE point of Live Mesh!

Architectural Astronomy...?

"The hallmark of an architecture astronaut is that they don't solve an actual problem... they solve something that appears to be the template of a lot of problems."
Well, I have seen a fair bit of this from Microsoft... and the big companies in general...
They tend to become so obsessed with being the "platform", and "enabling developers to make the coolest apps" etc, that they forget that the bright young kids they hire could possibly make "the coolest apps" inside Microsoft itself!
Its as if they'd rather leave the "creative", "awesome", "remarkable" apps that users love and need for the start ups and high school kids to write on top of their platform. And then they gloat about how their platform enables people to realise their potential!
(No wonder MS branding is not everything it could be...)

They'd rather attack the technically tougher challenge of building the platform, than the more creative challenge of dishing out killer apps!

But then again, that's one of their strengths isn't it? All the complex architecture and technology... That's something MS can do and a high school drop out start up simply can't.

Me thinks Joel's right about "solving a real problem and giving the customers what they need and want". Thats brilliant advice for everyone... From start ups and small companies... to the gigantic Microsoft, Google, IBM etc...

But on the other hand, someone's gotta be building the next big platform! Microsoft built the last big platform... Windows! And look what that got them... (a vibrant eco-system of software and developers... and... um... also billions of dollars year after year!)

They're out trying to build the next big platform - "The Cloud", and Live Mesh is an integral part of that strategy. They're simply leveraging their strengths (tons of experience and brilliant programmers), and following a tried and tested and successful strategy.

MS should continue building all these "cool new" platforms, but along with them, they should think about what the consumer wants, and deliver that killer app!

Look at Google... their "cloud strategy" started with Gmail (email had been done to death before that), then they added docs and spreadsheets, and reader, and tons of other really useful apps.
They've now gone all the way with Google Apps and AppEngine... Both cunsumers and developers love Google!
Microsoft could take a page out of their book...

The Next Big Thing?

"It sort of bothers me, intellectually, that there are these people running around acting like they're building the next great thing who keep serving us the same exact TV dinner that I don't want night after night.'s a fun programming exercise that you're doing because it's just hard enough to be interesting but not so hard that you can't figure it out."

Well, I can see where Joel's coming from here...

One of my friends, Archis actually works on Live Mesh, and I had been hearing "top secret" things about it since 2 years before I saw the demo...
I couldn't help but feel that it was... well... a teeny weeny little bit overhyped!
It dint make me go "WOW!"... I was like..."NICE! This thing does have some potential...!"

Though I have access to it, I haven't yet tried Live Mesh... Which goes to show that its not really super compelling to me...
But having said that, I do definitely plan to check it out soon... (I AM kinda struggling with keeping my files in sync and sharing files with friends... And Live Mesh does sound pretty cool!)

I know file syncing and sharing has been done. But "the idea's been done before", is just not enough reason to NOT do something cool and raise the bar while you're at it... Both Microsoft and Google have done this successfully time and again!

Live Mesh Potential...

Apart from "building a platform, and not just an app", I think the cool new thing about Live Mesh is connecting all your computing devices (computers, mobile phones, music players, xboxes etc) together seamlessly.

Ashutosh puts this point pretty well...

"Our desktops and other devices (e.g. phone) are like big silos of applications, data and information. They exist as isolated entities that connect to the net primarily through browser. That's the reason we see a crop of these web based applications (even a so called OS) that hardly integrate closely with the rest of my desktop.
I think Mesh is trying to break that model and open up those silos so that all my devices and their content is always accessible to me wherever I am."
And it gets cooler...

The part I really like is the promise of customising the experience of the same app/data for different devices to make optimum use of the devices' capabilities, thus leveraging each devices unique advantages while making room for the weaknesses.
I can't wait to see some killer apps here!

Why's Joel Ranting?

I think Joel has some super revolutionary ideas (like Wasabi!?), but just can't afford the brilliant programmers to implement them... And is pissed off cos MS & Google have tons of them working on stuff he feels is over hyped...
The fact that MS and Google are driving up the cost of brilliant, apart from hoarding all of them seems to have pushed him over the edge!

I "get" you're pain Joel... But I'm one of them "unsuspecting comp-sci college grads" right now...
I've been "victimised" by both Google and Microsoft...
And I like it!
: )


Archis Gore said...

Time to update your link to my blog:

Archis Gore said...

I do understand that Mesh was slightly overhyped - but part of it was just pure passion - the hype you may have heard was mostly from the developers working on it (read: me) rather than anyone else. To me, that's just what's needed on any dev team - the belief that what you're doing is going to save the economy, prevent world hunger, end terrorism, and anything else you can pile on top!

The secrecy was always a annoying and still is. A lot of it comes due to so many ideas being thrown around and not having time to push them all through.

On the point of Astronomical Architecture? I disagree. To all purposes the Mesh has a very simple architecture. It's all feeds. No matter what you need it boils down to feeds. What was perhaps astronomical in the whole deal was to ensure it would scale gracefully.

Once the Mesh is in place, look at how fast you can build your own messaging platform anologous to e-mail. Look at the pure simplicity of building an IM app. Look at how fast your local WPF viewer + online photo-sharing app is built.