I have my foot in my mouth (again 🙂 ).
Here I was, going about bashing the recently announced ‘Live Mesh’ every time a discussion around Microsoft’s online story came up, without actually having used the service! (Yes, I know I work at Microsoft but then, being “Self-Critical” is a company value around here 😉 ). Now that I have actually used it, I stand corrected! I actually like it (though the UI could be better), and am finding it pretty useful (especially the folder synchronization part).
For the uninitiated, Live Mesh is being positioned as Microsoft’s platform for enabling ‘Anywhere Access’ to users’ data and applications. The philosophy is that the user owns the data (and the software applications). He should be able to access it seamlessly, irrespective of the device and / or place. A user can add the devices and /or applications he owns to his “Mesh”. The “Mesh” abstracts the fragmentation of user’s data stored in isolated devices (or even the cloud) so that, for the user, his/her data is now accessible from any device connected to the mesh. For example, you start preparing a presentation for a meeting on your office desktop, go home, start your PC, continue from where you left off in the office and complete the presentation, go straight to the meeting the next day and project the slides from your smart phone!
But this is already possible, right? You could as well have emailed the slide deck to yourself and accessed it, isn’t it? Well, yes, it is doable that way. In fact this was exactly the argument I used to make in support of my stand above. But you really have to try out the folder sync feature to be able to appreciate the experience it provides. (Which means, you have to wait 🙂 Live Mesh is currently in limited tech-preview).
Using email for doing this once in a while is probably Ok, but what if you had to do this day-in and day-out? It’s at least an order of magnitude simpler to have all your devices automatically synced, based on the rules you specify, but without being bothered every time and without you having to consciously attach and send mails.
In it’s first avatar, Live Mesh will offer two services: Folder Synchronization (which enables scenarios like the one illustrated above) and Remote Desktop. If things go well, we may see a number of existing applications becoming “mesh-enabled” and perhaps a sizeable number of new applications built on the platform.