All the big news last week was the big announcement by Ray Ozzie concerning Live Mesh and the availability of a limited number (20,000) beta invites that were available. Needless to say those invites became a pretty hot commodity among a portion of folks interested in what Microsoft is doing in the cloud computing space. Needless to say I was kind of anxious to give it a go but as one who hadn’t received an invite directly I had to rely on the possibility that one of my friends would get one.
Well I was lucky in that regard as Frederic over at The Last Podcast did get one sent to him and once I let him in on the secret (shhh .. don’t tell anyone k?) that he now had around five invites that he could share I was soon bustling my way to the Mesh site to sign in.
Now there is a couple of points that need to be clarified here in the hopes to cut through a lot of the bullshit being spewed by people who are regurgitating second hand information based on blog posts they might have read. The first point which seems to be causing a fair amount of confusion is Live Mesh itself.
Live Mesh is not an application. Let me repeat that just so we are clear – Live Mesh is not an application. What Live Mesh is though is a platform upon which Mesh aware applications can be run. It is also intended to be a way for you to synchronize data across all your devices that have been added to your Mesh desktop. As Ray Ozzie said in a recently published memo
Central to this strategy is our embrace of both a world of the web and a world of devices. Over the past ten years, the PC era has given way to an era in which the web is at the center of our experiences – experiences delivered not just through the browser but also through many different devices including PCs, phones, media players, game consoles, set-top boxes and televisions, cars, and more.
It is our mission in this new era to create compelling, seamless experiences that combine the power of the internet, with the magic of software, across a world of devices.
Another point that is being raised is that Live Mesh is too Windows centric meaning that is only accessible from computers running Windows. As well much is being said of how lacking it is in features. To these folks there is only one thing to say – What part of Technical Preview don’t you get?
In regards to the Windows only question this has been answered indirectly many times by both the Mesh team themselves as well as people knowledgeable of the project but nowhere was it made more clearer than when the Gilmore Gang had a chance to interview David Treadwell the lead of the Mesh project. Steve Gilmore repeated what was said in his post on TechCrunch
First, the Coke Classic questions: When’s the Mac version? Two months.
This push to provide an open platform for developers to build Mesh enabled applications; desktop or web based, has also been quite plain from day one when word of the projected started gaining traction. This was pointed out in a post in April on TechCrunch
The basic foundation of Mesh is this feed-centric programming model. A Web developer can build an app using any programming language or tools he likes (Python, Ruby on Rails, Flex) and then sync it across devices and other applications using two-way feeds as the basic data and communication channel. The promise for developers, says product unit manager Abhay Parasnis: “If you Mesh-enable your application, we will let you extend it to other devices.”
Microsoft is offering a set of Mesh APIs that include storage services, membership, sync, peer-to-peer communication, and a Newsfeed feature that tells users the status of different folders and who’s accessed them. The same programming model works whether a developer is building an app for an offline device or for the Web
But what about the user?
All this clarification about developer and platforms is nice but what’s in it for the user and how’s it suppose to work?
Using the Technical Preview Release
The fact of the matter is that at this point Mesh has no real use to anyone other than if you are lucky enough to get an invite you get to play around a little bit. However moving files around between your local machine and the Mesh desktop gets to be boring pretty quick. I won’t bother posting any screenshots of what you can expect to see as there are already plenty of blogs out there with them; which you will find links to at the end of this post.
The idea of the Technical Preview was primarily to let the world know that Microsoft has something very serious in the works and that they shouldn’t be counted out just yet regardless of some people are saying.
We shouldn’t expect to see anything really happening as far as a Mesh that regular folks can make use of until Microsoft releases the SDK (Software Development Kit) for developers to get their grimy little mitts on. Once that happens and they open up the platform to more people to us then we will probably start to see the excitement begin to build.
The road forward
As excited I might be about what Mesh could be bringing to the table I don’t really think we will see much that will have any impact on users for at least a year to a year and a half. In the meantime though developers will begin to see more and more things for them to play with appear on the horizon. It is almost enough for me to crack open my development tools again.
That said though I am probably more in the same camp as Alexander van Elsas who is more concerned about how this will play out for the user
Does that mean that the launch of Microsoft Live Mesh isn’t a big deal? Sure it is. But I’m not getting excited of the technology announcement. I’m interested in the announcements of companies building great user services over this platform!
The other two things that concern me are the same as the ones that I mentioned in yesterday’s post about cloud computing in general – that being connectivity and security. While I find it humorous that people who use web based email app and other online applications like Google docs are concerned about their data being on Microsoft servers we still need to take a serious look at how our data is going to be protected.
To round this up as exciting as Live Mesh might be we are still at the very beginning stages of the now public project. This means that for the average user there really isn’t anything to be concerned with as it really isn’t a usable platform other than to play around on.
Microsoft could very well be entering the whole cloud computing sector with a big bang as the Mesh platform moves forward but for now it is strictly a wait and see situation.
Introducing Live Mesh :: Windows Live Dev
Windows Live Mesh, let’s talk about the user :: Alexander van Elsas’s Weblog on new media & technologies and their effect on social behavior
Live Mesh – The Version You Can Understand :: Mashable
Services Strategy Update :: Ray Ozzie (PDF)
Live Mesh – Windows Meet Cloud :: Windows Connected
Live mesh Microsoft’s answer to cloud computing :: TechWag
Microsoft’s Mesh Revealed—Sync All Apps And All Files To All Devices (As Long As They’re Windows) :: TechCrunch
Live Mesh: Boy have we got questions! :: LiveSide
Ray Ozzie’s latest memo – Software plus Services strategy :: Steve Clayton : Geek in disguise
Mesh Review: A User’s Perspective :: The Last Podcast
Want to try Mesh, but not got access? Find a friend and you can! :: LiveSide
Live Mesh Technology Preview: A closer look – User perspective Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 :: LiveSide
Microsoft Says Yes With Mesh :: TechCrunch