Hold onto your hats, Windows Live fans. Microsoft is making a bunch of changes to what was going to be known as Windows Live Sync, its competitor to DropBox, that is slated to be part of Windows Live Essentials 2011.
Many of the changes, which Microsoft is announcing on August 27, are good ones -- and ones that were requested by many of the folks who've been beta-testing what was formerly known as Live Mesh for the past couple of years.
First, the final name of Windows Live Sync is going to be.... Windows Live Mesh. In other words, the sync service that was originally named Windows Live Mesh, but then was renamed Windows Live Sync (when it was combined with the service that was formerly named FolderShare, and later Windows Live Sync), is back to being named Windows Live Mesh.
Right.... Next, Microsoft officials have bowed to complaints resulting from a decision to chop the online storage limit for Windows Live Mesh. Instead of the 2 GB which is the current limit (and one that Microsoft execs claimed made sense, given how few users ever used the previously offered 5 GB), Microsoft is going back to offering 5 GB of online storage to Live Mesh users.
Windows Live Mesh, when it is released to the Web, will enable users to detect missing files and see file names and when/where they were last modified, the Softies said today. And users also will have the ability to sync hidden files and folders.
The not-so-good news: Windows Live Mesh still isn't going to support mobile phones when Windows Live Essentials 2011 is released. The original beta of Windows Live Mesh supported syncing between PCs and between PCs and devices, but Microsoft eliminated the phone support earlier this summer. There's no word as to when/if phone support will be added back into the service. It's still in the plans, according to a company spokesperson, who reiterated: "With this release of Windows Live Mesh, the focus is on syncing folders between computers (PCs and Macs). In the future, the team will explore adding support for other devices including mobile phones."
According to Microsoft, since the release of the Windows Live Sync beta (as part of the Windows Live Essentials 2011 Beta 1 in June, 2010), more than 240,000 people have tried Windows Live Sync. The "average customer" syncs over 675 files with an average file size of 1.8 MB, and uses 240 MB of cloud storage, Microsoft officials said.
Microsoft officials said these Live Mesh changes will take effect "when Windows Live Essentials 2011 is released in the fall of 2010." I asked whether Microsoft intended to offer another beta build/refresh of Windows Live Essentials 2011 (something more current than the "beta refresh" made available in August) before that for testing purposes and didn't hear back by the time I published this post.
I also asked about the relationship between SkyDrive and Live Mesh -- something ArsTechnica ranted about as being overly complex and confusing in a recent post. "SkyDrive offers 25GB for sharing photos and Office docs on the web. SkyDrive also offers an additional 5GB (via Live Mesh) for syncing files from your PC so that you can access them anywhere or so you can synchronize files between two PCs without having both online at the same time," said a spokesperson. That seems consistent with the current Live Sync/Live Mesh beta scenario, from what I can tell.
Does this win back any of you Live Mesh fans who were unhappy about Microsoft's initial changes? If not, what does Microsoft need to fix (beyond phone support) to fend off DropBox and its ilk?