Live Mesh dying soon – some saved by Live Sync, some not

The fact that Microsoft had Live Mesh, Live Sync and SkyDrive offerings was always confusing. Things are getting a turn for the clearer, as the Live Mesh brand gets nixed and Live Sync gains much of what Mesh used to be. But it’s not a change without losses.

image When installing the Live Wave 4 package, Mesh will be removed and replaced with Live Sync. You can’t have both on the same computer. But a branding change isn’t really that touching. What is actually changing?

Not very much, in fact. Live Sync gains the Remote Desktop capabilities from Mesh. It is also designed to sync far more data and more intelligently. For example, if you want to sync movies between two computers on the same network, Live Sync uses the local network to do the synchronization instead of passing the data up to the cloud and back again.

On the other hand, Live Mesh used to provide users with 5 GB of cloud storage for their files. This change shrinks the storage to 2 GB; a change perhaps not that significant for many, but a somewhat surprising direction. If you’re more interested in this, check out Paul Thurrott’s criticism on the issue; it also speculates on the possibility of providing the ability to buy more storage space in the future.

Platform support slashed

A somewhat challenging issue is the cut on the platforms supported. Live Sync will only be available on Vista and Windows 7, leaving Windows XP, Mac and Mobile users out in the cold. The Live Mesh infrastructure will be supported for a while – at least six months from the RTM release of Live Sync. But after that, users without Vista/7 will be looking for alternatives (Dropbox, anyone?).

The key problem here is shared folders. While Sync supports sharing folders between your friends just like Mesh did, it does not support sharing between Mesh and Sync users. So if you want to upgrade to Live Sync, you’ll be leaving out your old Mesh friends. Simultaneous upgrade for all your friends works great… until it turns out one of your sharing mates has XP or still needs Mesh to collaborate with users on XP.

This upgrade policy will certainly lead into broken social networks, as people lose a lot of the flexibility originally provided by Mesh. It doesn’t make the new Live Sync a bad product, but a cutback from the current state provided by Live Mesh beta. Certainly, the upside will be a far more integrated and better supported solution.

The Mesh train losing steam?

imageWhen the Live Mesh was at its hyped peak in 2008, the Mesh concept encompassed everything in the world. The Mesh was intended not just as a data synchronization platform for files, but also a conduit through which applications and their attached data could be shared.

For example, you could install HTML or Silverlight-based applications on Live Mesh, which would then propagate these apps to all your devices. The Live Operating Environment would make sure that the structured data needed by these applications would be available at all locations, synced in real time. There were grandiose demos with things such as Ori Amiga’s car equipped with a Mesh-connected computer system.

Today, 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. Also, the idea of implementing even that trivial Wine Cellar (see the previous link) on top of the currently announced Live Sync seems far-fetched.

We can safely say that Live Mesh has been reduced to a platform-integrated, cloud-capable synchronization tool. That’s not a bad offering per se, but looking at Ray Ozzie’s visionary statements on the future of Mesh and the feature cuts involved, it does feel a bit cheap right now. In this regard, MIX10 delivered far less than expected.

I’m sure the team is working on the next increment even as I type this, but given the relative maturity of Live Framework in 2008 and the natural synergy with out-of-browser Silverlight, I’m surprised to see the delays. While HTML5 is gaining support for local storage and whatnot, the original Mesh offering provided device-independence and sharing as features that the standard web technologies will struggle to match for a long time. I would have expected Microsoft to better take the advantage of all that.

June 14, 2010 · Jouni Heikniemi · One Comment
Tags: ,  · Posted in: .NET, General

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