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Leaving Live Mesh and the mess Microsoft is in

Posted on 20th Nov 2009 at 11:24 by Alex Watson with 16 comments

Alex Watson
It’s not often PC Pro gets the drop on us in terms of new technology (unless you’re into laser printers), but they were well ahead when it came to Microsoft’s Live Mesh, and prompted by their enthusiastic praise, I gave it a try.

Live Mesh really is pretty nifty; sign up for an account, add your computer to 'the Mesh' (your own of group of machines) and any folders you select are uploaded to the servers. You can then access these folders and files via a web browser, or – and this is the brilliant bit – set them to by synced across multiple computers. Make a change to a file on one PC, and it’ll be uploaded to the servers, then downloaded when the other machines turn on so they all mirror each other.

For a while, in fact, it was so good, I wondered if it was the start of a turnaround for Microsoft.

Unfortunately, I think Live Mesh more accurately points out some of Microsoft’s current problems. Here’s why: good as it is, it’s far from great. In reality, it’s under-developed, failing to deliver on its potential and one that strategically must be very hard to justify for Microsoft if it really thought about it.

First, the good: Well, Mesh works. It works on Windows, it works on Macs, and it works in lots of browsers. It’s quick, and it does-what-it-says-on-the-tin: files in my ‘Custom PC’ folder on my PC appear on my Mac at home in the evening. It's simple and reasonably clutter free - you can add a folder to the Mesh just by right-clicking on it - and you're not plagued by endless notifications and pop-ups. Mesh just gets on with the job.

Magic.

Leaving Live Mesh and the mess Microsoft is in
Live Mesh works across PCs and Macs

There are problems though.

Biggest is the fact there’s no way to get more storage. You get 5GB for free, and that's it. No more, no less. Given how easy it is to shoot a couple of gigabytes worth of photos on a single afternoon, or to acquire gigabytes of music, with 5GB you’re basically limited to documents.

Updates are a long time coming – support for Mac OS X Snow Leopard took almost two months.

There’s no iPhone or Android app. If you share links to files with people, they need a Windows Live login to get them. There’s no support for saving different versions of files. (All of these features are offered by competitors such as DropBox and Sugar Sync).

Leaving Live Mesh and the mess Microsoft is in
Smaller rivals such as DropBox and Sugar Sync have surpassed Live Mesh's features and flexibility

Live Mesh was my first real experiment with ‘cloud’ storage, and I really liked it, but as soon as you start exploring other options, it becomes apparent that either Live Mesh is a rather half-hearted attempt to get into online storage, or it’s Microsoft playing around, testing technologies it’s later going to use in other products.

Either way, from the customer's point of view, it's limited. While Live Mesh is likely, thanks to the Microsoft name, to attract lots of first timers to the world of online storage, it’s also likely that many of those people, like me, will encounter its limitations and look elsewhere. I made the move to Sugar Sync last month and haven’t looked back.

In some ways, it seems a missed opportunity on Microsoft’s part, because in Live Mesh it has a good product that it could easily build into a great one.

In other ways though, perhaps it’s not - perhaps Mesh hasn’t seen any investment because the company already has two other cloud storage products – Windows Live Sync and SkyDrive.

Perhaps Mesh hasn’t seen any investment because frankly, Microsoft isn't really convinced it needs a cloud storage business. After all, is it really key for a company that makes its money with Windows and Office - or does Mesh exist just because there are rumours of a Google product, dubbed Gdrive?

Live Mesh is neither great nor terrible, and seems like a service on a road to nowhere in particular.

16 Comments

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Jamie 20th November 2009, 13:06 Quote
I use DropBox on all my systems.
Sifter3000 20th November 2009, 13:16 Quote
Dropbox is good but you need to remember to move files and folders into the dropbox... I prefer just being able to set folders as being synced.
Spiny 20th November 2009, 14:14 Quote
Mesh really comes into it's own when you need to sync machines via the cloud. Photo's don't really fall into that use case because once the content is there it's pretty static. Having said that it would be nice if you could use your SkyDrive space. I heard Skydrive & Mesh are developed by two seperate teams though...
Sifter3000 20th November 2009, 14:31 Quote
The problem with having Mesh just for syncing is that if you then want online backup, you've got to have another service - I can do both sync and online backup with Sugar Sync.

I can well believe Mesh and Skydrive have separate teams - it just doesn't make any sense!
mi1ez 20th November 2009, 14:39 Quote
I have mesh installed, but mainly for RDP type duties. I very rarely sync files. If I know I want something elsewhere I might (done it with a shedload of MP3s at one point). Sometimes I fancy/need something, I can log onto my machine and email it to the machine I'm sat at.
Comet 20th November 2009, 14:44 Quote
Live Mesh is a preview product. An application that is meant to show developers the Mesh api capabilities just like Google Wave its work in progress . Live Mesh is a top Microsoft priority for the next year as they intend to integrate almost any kind of products with the Mesh Api. This is one of the strong points for Windows Mobile 7. A better ilustration where Microsoft plans to go is the Live Mesh ad available in youtube .http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFpwzg-AP_Q
Comet 20th November 2009, 14:49 Quote
By the way... There is a reason why the site is titled "Live Mesh Beta".
digitaldave 20th November 2009, 18:15 Quote
you can get an app for the mac called gdrive that makes a folder on your mac sync with your gmail storage ;)
Sifter3000 20th November 2009, 18:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Comet
Live Mesh is a preview product. An application that is meant to show developers the Mesh api capabilities just like Google Wave its work in progress . Live Mesh is a top Microsoft priority for the next year as they intend to integrate almost any kind of products with the Mesh Api. This is one of the strong points for Windows Mobile 7. A better ilustration where Microsoft plans to go is the Live Mesh ad available in youtube .http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFpwzg-AP_Q

In some ways this just further illustrates my point - Live Mesh is a preview, but other, competing services are already there.

And yes, while I know Mesh is a BETA, surely that should mean that it gets improvements regularly, rather than every other month?
yodasarmpit 20th November 2009, 19:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sifter3000
In some ways this just further illustrates my point - Live Mesh is a preview, but other, competing services are already there.

And yes, while I know Mesh is a BETA, surely that should mean that it gets improvements regularly, rather than every other month?
When Google does it we all coo, however when it's MS the hate begins. O_o

That said, I'm looking forwards to Google's GDrive solution.
crazyceo 22nd November 2009, 11:46 Quote
Anyone using V.Stuff with VirginMedia? As far as I can tell, with the XXL 50MB connection it's free and unlimited storage.

I've just backed up my HomeServer and I can access it from anywhere with an internet connection. So when the homeserver backs up any PC in the house, V.Stuff then backs up the changes as well.

I don't think I can do the mobile phone sync but to be honest I can't think of a time when I will need to do that.
Xir 26th November 2009, 15:02 Quote
I and everyone I know simply lack the bandwith for this to be attractive...
Maybe it's just the tight german net (and virtually impossible 3g datarates) though
Omnituens 26th November 2009, 15:49 Quote
I might set this up for my savegame directories, so I can play Bookworm Adventures and PvZ on my laptop and PC.
Shagbag 26th November 2009, 19:16 Quote
Is this the same as Amazon's S3?
Sifter3000 27th November 2009, 17:36 Quote
It's the same in that it's online storage, but S3 is aimed at someone who wants to build an application. Mesh/SugarSync etc are applications already, aimed at consumers who want online backup/sync.
Shagbag 27th November 2009, 19:17 Quote
Oh. OK. Thx. So it's just like Ubuntu One?
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