When you use hotmail.com or Live Messenger or even Live Search, you've used Live Services. Live Services include more than 15 services and is part of Azure Services Platform. Users can share files, photos, and contacts, synchronize them automatically between different devices, and more. As ISVs your applications, with user permission, can interact with all these services.

You can get an idea of the Live Services that are available to you as an software developer:

  • Identity service supports authentication, knowing who is who and which devices belong to whom.
  • Directory service, then, maintains relationships between identities, for example to form a group of people to share information.
  • Storage services allow people to save their data into the cloud (which can also be called a mesh).
  • Communications and presence let people send messages to each other and know who is online or not.
  • Search and location (or geospatial) services support finding information from the web and showing interactive maps inside your application. 
  • And more.

Your applications can take advantage of Live Services through a SOAP or REST API using the Live Services SDK. But what you really want are controls you can drag and drop into your application and then wire up. Jani Järvinen has put together an article on Developer.Com that show code on how to wire up three of the Live Services using Live Tools for Visual Studio. Jani's article is entitled Tapping Into Microsoft Live Services with C#. He shows how:

  • Live Search can be used from your own applications. With a SOAP interface, it actually doesn't matter whether your application is a GUI, web-based, console or a service application.
  • To add a Virtual Earth map as a component to your ASP.NET web applications. The map is similar to the one available at Microsoft's Live Search Maps site at maps.live.com.
  • How to show whether your communication partner is available for a phone call, meeting or just a quick chat. The article shows how to add Presence to your application.

You'll need Windows Live Tools for Visual Studio. (The link to the latest CTP posted last week is at the end of this posting.) Windows Live Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 are a set of control add-ins to make incorporating Windows Live Services into your Web application easier with Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Web Developer Express 2008. You'll get:

  • Contacts: The Contacts control allows developers to include Windows Live Contacts into their web pages. The control provides the ability to raise client and server events for sign-in/sign-out and data transfer activities. It also allows the developer’s webpage to get word of mouth through viral traffic. This control is an ASP.NET version of the existing JavaScript control available at http://dev.live.com/contacts
  • SilverlightStreamingMedia: The SilverlightStreamingMedia control extends the ASP.NET Futures Media control by allowing you to play videos from your Silverlight Streaming account. Now at design time, you can specify your account credentials and choose the video you want to display on your web pages.
  • IDLogin: The IDLogin control quickly allows you to provision Windows Live ID authentication for your application. Now you drag and drop the control on your web page, provision your Application ID, and compile/run the project. This also provides for client/server side events for sign-in/sign-out user actions, a property to maintain your application context, and properties to specify background/foreground colors to mesh with your web page.
  • IDLoginView: IDLoginView extends the functionality of the ASP.NET LoginView control by adding support for Windows Live ID authentication. It allows you to associate a Windows Live ID with an ASP.NET membership profile to provide a single sign-on experience for your web site users. It adds new templates to provide richness in your web site based on the login state of your web site user.

Check out the latest Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Windows Live Tools for Visual Studio. To get an idea of the kinds of applications you can do, and more sample code, see Quick Applications.

You can download the very latest tools in the April release, Live Framework Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio April 2009 CTP. You'll get both the Live Tools and the updated Live Framework SDK.

To keep up to date, watch the Live Services team blog.