On Friday, I showed IT @ Cork the Windows Live Platform for developers.
The "one link to rule them all" for those who want to get started mashing a wide variety of services into their web-based applications is the Windows Live Developer Center on MSDN.
1. The Good: Virtual Earth API
The Virtual Earth API offers a good example of how you can rapidly integrate parts of the Windows Live Platform into your web applications.
Check out Martin Woodward's 20-minute Virtual Earth mashup: Using the Virtual Earth Map Control, he took this live traffic camera information from Dublin City Council, and made this mash-up map which overlays live views of Dublin traffic.
And for something more elaborate (which probably took longer than 20 minutes to make), see the Weather Channel's interactive weather map for North America, done in Flash, which blends the MapPoint Web Service images with satellite and radar image data.
[Update: Here's a roadmap for the Virtual Earth control.]
2. The Intriguing: Live Messenger Bots and Activities
Go add Smarterchild@hotmail.com to your Windows Live Messenger (nee MSN Messenger) contact list. Smarterchild is an example of a "Bot" which uses AI to converse with you over Messenger.
Bots can remember their visitors and offer them highly personalized and context-aware interactions.
Bots can also interact with Messenger Activities to create a richer interaction experience. To try this, add email@example.com, the Match.com dating service bot, to your Windows Live Messenger contact list. Pretend you live in the US if you have to. The Dating Bot uses Messenger activities to provide a really nice interaction while you're looking for a potential mate, and ultimately drives traffic back to the Match.com website.
Want to build your own bots? There are a several Messenger Bot-building tools available, and this link goes to three of them.
Too cool not to mention is this Messenger Bot SDK sample that integrates with Microsoft Robotics Studio, which lets you control a robot remotely using a Messenger Bot and a Robot Control Messenger Activity.
3. The Way to get Started
If you have an hour to explore the Windows Live APIs yourself, you would do well to follow through the "Live in a Box" hands-on lab, which is available on Codeplex. As you can see below, the Live in a Box lab contains walkthroughs of many parts of the Windows Live platform. You can work through all of the lab using the free Visual Web Developer Express Edition.
I found the Live in a Box lab through the "one link to rule them all" at the Windows Live Developer Center :)