image In pondering the e-book-related angles of a new Microsoft technology, I can’t help but think about trust issues.

Live Mesh will let you easily shuffle data from your desktop to your PDA and so on. But what if this this all happens just among gizmos running Windows. Should we rely on Microsoft that much? Or any?

Gotcha hazards galore

Potentially Microsoft could use data-updating capabilities of Live Mesh to allow up-to-the-minute e-books with annotations, forums and blogs included. A Good Thing? Of course. Live Mesh and trappings might turn many a WiFi-equipped PDA and cellphone into a Kindle equivalent that could seamlessly download e-books, not just from central servers but at least indirectly from each other. That’s better than the Kindle. Still, what happens if Mac and Linux users are locked out?

Past gotchas

As shown by Microsoft  Reader, a format unreadable in its DRMed flavors except on Windows software, Microsoft in the past has loved to link content with its proprietary technology.

Robert Scoble  has written of the possibility of Live Mesh supporting various devices from Apple and Nokia and even playing well with Linux, and Microsoft promises support in the next few months for Macs. But what gotchas will exist? Live Mesh is about much, much more than e-book-related matters alone—what about online newspapers and social networking sites, for example?—but the effects on our little niche could be huge.

No need to learn from history: Just look at the present

Do we really want to trust Microsoft in content-related matters? See the just-posted Jerry Seinfeld, DRM and locked music.

The Microsoft mentality in action: Before you take a “tour” of Live Mesh, you see a pop-up advising you to install Microsoft Silverlight, a rival of Adobe’s Flash.

image Effects on other companies: If I were Adobe, I’d be scared, very scared, unless, of course, the two companies have cooked up some kind of alliance—which still isn’t any assurance, given the fates of some past Microsoft allies. I also wonder what the ramifications could be for Amazon and Google, once they get serious about interactive e-books? If those companies and others worked with WC3,, OASIS, the IDPF and other groups, perhaps they could go a long way in protecting their businesses—as opposed to relying on Microsoft. Is anyone listening?

Hello, Jeff Bezos? Isn’t Microsoft a little more experienced at this-here monopoly game than you are? For now, I still think Amazon’s worthy of a good look-over by anti-trust investigators—on POD-related matters and maybe even e-book-pricing issues (no allegations of wrongdoing here: I just think Amazon bears watching). But long term, others just might be better at Standard Oil-style tactics.

For more on Live Mesh: Techmeme roundup, Gizmodo, Techrunch, Mary Jo Foley’s blog item and Live Mesh team blog. Also see a post by Silicon Alley Insider writer Hank Williams—raising the possibility that Mesh is still too desktop oriented.


  1. Also worth noting about microsoft is this article from Ars Technica ( which says:

    “Customers who have purchased music from Microsoft’s now-defunct MSN Music store are now facing a decision they never anticipated making: commit to which computers (and OS) they want to authorize forever, or give up access to the music they paid for. Why? Because Microsoft has decided that it’s done supporting the service and will be turning off the MSN Music license servers by the end of this summer.”

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