If Microsoft has its way, the NBT (next big thing) is going to be Live Mesh, which is nothing less than a platform to integrate and organize our digital lives. At present, it’s a file sync tool at the tech preview level, which should not be confused with SkyDrive or FolderShare, which are two other, similar products in this arena from the software giant.
After signing up for Mesh and downloading the client software (a tiny ~2MB install) on one of your devices, you are presented with a "ring" that includes an online desktop (called Live Desktop) and an option to add other devices. The interface is powered by Silverlight (what else?); it’s sleek, sexy, and practically begs to begin buildling relationships with your devices. Right now, only Windows XP and Vista PCs are supported, but Microsoft plans to add support for Mac and mobile phones soon (where’s the love for the Linux community, Redmond?).
Anyway, here’s a sample of a Mesh ring:
Mesh Device Ring
What makes Mesh different is the level of integration that it has with each device in your ring. You can create and browse files directly on your Live Desktop (no drag-and-drop…yet) and depending on your sync settings, they’ll be almost instantly available on each of your devices. Likewise if you have a local folder that you’d like to make accessible to your other devices, simply right-click it and add it to the mesh. If you want to invite your friends and colleagues to the party, you can even make folders in your mesh securely accessible to others.
Mesh also has a nifty remote desktop feature, but I have to admit that I haven’t had time to play with it much yet. I’m sure that’ll be a really handy option for me.
Sounds impressive, but you’re probably thinking that several other vendors are already doing something similar (in fact, Microsoft almost seems to be competing with several of its other Live services, such as the aforementioned SkyDrive and FolderShare). Well then, you need to take another swig of the Kool-Aid. According to Microsoft developer blogs, such as Channel 9, there are scads of other uses for the platform besides file sync, including shared application hosting (much like offerings on Facebook).
Lest you think that I’m getting kick-backs from Ozzie & Company, let me just say that as cool as Live services are as a whole, I’ve been very disappointed with the overall their lack of cohesive branding and neverending betas over the past 2 years. I’m hopeful that Microsoft is positioning Live to really make a comeback against competitors like Google Gears, Adobe AIR, Facebook, Yahoo, and now Apple MobileMe (careful IE7 users).
I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes on this new service. I guess that I’m "enmeshed."