Is Microsoft's Live Mesh on its way to the graveyard?

Is Microsoft's Live Mesh on its way to the graveyard?

Summary: Live Mesh, Microsoft's PC-to-PC sync service, has been meandering down a long and winding road since 2008. Are its final days in sight?

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No one from Microsoft will go on the record saying it, but it's looking more and more like Live Mesh may be on its way to being phased out.

It's been a long strange trip for Live Mesh, Microsoft's cross-PC synchronization service. It's gone by a slew of different names, including Windows Live Sync, FolderShare, and way back in 2008, codename "Horizon." And it's morphed almost as many times in terms in terms of its promised feature set.

Currently, Live Mesh is considered part of the Windows Live Essentials bundle of software and services, which also includes Windows Live Writer, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Mail, Family Safety and the Bing Bar. But I'm thinking the next version of Live Essentials -- whatever that looks like, given that some of the Live Essentials services seem likely to become Windows 8 apps -- may not include a standalone Live Mesh offering at all.

Live Mesh 2011 allows users to sync their documents, photos and other files across their PCs and Macs, as well as with SkyDrive. It enables users to connect remotely to PCs that are online in order to "fetch" content from them. And it allows users to sync program settings and IE favorites across PCs.

A subset of Live Mesh's functionality is in the midst of being folded into SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage service, the local Windows and Mac SkyDrive apps, which are available, as of this week, in preview form; and the smartphone versions of SkyDrive apps available for Windows Phone, iPhone, and likely someday soon, Android phones. (The SkyDrive team is releasing updates on roughly a quarterly basis these days, a far cry from the once every two/three years release pace that many of the Windows Live properties have followed up until now.)

“As we discussed recently, we are excited to bring the DNA of SkyDrive and Mesh together to provide our customers with seamless access to their content," said a company spokesperson when I asked whether Mesh will be completely supplanted by SkyDrive. "We think you will find SkyDrive to be increasingly useful over time.”

Microsoft's apparent goal is to wean current Mesh users from that service and move them to SkyDrive. On April 23, Microsoft posted a comparative chart entitled "SkyDrive for Mesh users" that highlighted the ways in which many of Live Mesh's feature equivalents are being incorporated into SkyDrive.

(click on table to enlarge)

The way that SkyDrive handles syncing is quite different from how Live Mesh does it, which is something not reflected by the chart. With SkyDrive Live Mesh, users can sync between PCs without going to the cloud to do so. A number of commenters on this week's Building Windows 8 blog post about SkyDrive reiterated that they considered this feature a differentiator from other syncing services, and something that will be sorely missed.

With Mesh, users have more granular control over how much of their content they sync. That goes away with SkyDrive, as poster Christopher Copeland noted in the comments:

"I think we need a property / attribute on each folder that indicates if it is synchronized or not with each device (a la Mesh)… I am OK with providing a consistent Path per install... but putting up to ~25GB across each machine with no ability to segment what goes where (personal vs. business for example) is a non-starter for me and this service as my 'end all be all' -- and I really wanted it to be!"

The new SkyDrive apps also currently don't allow users to see any folders that other users share with them. As one commentator on the latest Building Windows 8 blog post on SkyDrive noted, "without this feature, I cannot stop using DropBox." (Microsoft's response: Hey, that's "a great feature request.")

In terms of the favorites-sync capability, Microsoft notes via the aforementioned chart that this capability is being built into Windows 8 (Not that this will help Windows Vista and Windows 7 users, but that seems to be the full-steam-ahead strategic direction.)

I'm hearing that most if not all the Softies who were previously working on Live Mesh (and haven't already moved to other teams and/or left the company) are now working on SkyDrive. Microsoft is touting (via its job postings) that "each month over 100 million people around the world use SkyDrive to store their most important data totaling 4,004,294,335,813,908 bytes and growing." All the signs do seem to be pointing toward Microsoft dropping Live Mesh in favor of SkyDrive in the not-too-distant future, but no one from Redmond is yet saying that in any official capacity.

Live Mesh users: Are there any features you'd like to see moved to SkyDrive or altered in SkyDrive that would keep you loyal if and when Microsoft does pull the plug on Live Mesh?

Topics: Software, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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Talkback

49 comments
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  • What about the remote connection option

    I use the Mesh version of RDP daily. How will that fit with Skydrive?
    hamiltonguy
    • They probably think the replacement is just as good

      Now you can remotely view all the files on your computer from SkyDrive.com, so they probably figured that's just as good as anything. Maybe they figure most people used that feature so they could fetch a file from their computer elsewhere? This new feature would do an excellent job of that.

      But you probably have other uses in mind.
      ian.aldrighetti
      • Yes

        I use the Remote Desktop feature to access my laptop's web cam while I am away. It's nice to be able to do that while I am away just to check in on things, without having to drop cash for more expensive hardware. "File Fetching" won't allow me to do that.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Not as impressed as I would like to be.

    I'm not very satisfied with the SkyDrive app. I know it's only beta but still.
    First of all it didn't give me any choice to choose language, just installed itself in Japanese (default language of my OS) although I always choose English version.
    Then, by default I assume, started copying the contents of SkyDrive to my disk, again not having asked me if I need all of that. Live Mesh seemed already more mature and now we're back to beta again with too little configuration options.
    HinoMusouka
    • Well...

      You're first issue probably has something to do with Windows 8. Now that Windows 8 will support the switching of languages in all editions of Windows, SkyDrive was probably made to follow along. If you look in SkyDrive's AppData folder, there are over 100 language folders.

      Secondly, this is by design, and it will probably never change. The SkyDrive folder is now just that -- a folder which contains everything on SkyDrive.com.

      But I agree with the lack of configuration options, or at least the option to change where the folder goes. I accidentally selected my C drive, but I wanted to use my external drive. I went looking around to see if I could change it in the application, but I couldn't. I just uninstalled then reinstalled it. I did find a registry value and the path in an INI file, when I changed it to another valid folder, the thing crashed.
      ian.aldrighetti
  • Mesh Vs Skydrive

    Two feature I'll really miss if MS pull down Mesh with the Skydrive they show up today:

    - Folder selection: Being able to select the folders I want to sync, and not have to use one place

    - Sync without cloud: I really don't mind having X GB on the cloud. I need to sync over than 150GB between mutliples device. The max we can have with skydrive is 100+25GB with a (not negligible) annual fee.

    At this time I will still use Mesh until they shut down the service. If they do so, I'll look for a replacement like AeroFS unless they upgrade skydrive with Mesh features.
    Le_Poilu
    • I Completely agree with Le_Poilu

      I Completely agree with Le_Poilu, This is what differantiates Mesh from Dropbox and the rest of the crowd. Skydrive is just a poor imitation of Dropbox it like 2 steps forward (Mobile Device Support, file sync status) and 5 steps back
      dguillaume
      • No LIVE MESH?

        I also agree. For me, no LIVE MESH will mean more LOGMEIN. Threre is no way I'll sync all my folders from all my machines to SKY DRIVE. That would not be cost effective. What a mistake to take such a great program away.
        lloydkuhnle@...
    • Yep

      Yep. Without being able to select what data syncs on each machine, it's exactly like Dropbox- which I'm not a fan of. Taking away the biggest reason to use Mesh/Skydrive was a huge mistake.
      Resplendent
    • User Error

      You aren't using it right if you are having this problem.

      The new app integrates itself into the windows explorer perfectly. If it's a file you want to use in the cloud, just drop it into the SkyDrive. Live Mesh used to keep copies of what is synced. I didn't like that feature.
      kjb434
      • Developer Error

        I sincerely hope you are joking.

        Right now, with Live Mesh, I'm not forced to "drop it into the SkyDrive" folder. I just select the folder(s) that I want to be synced; where ever it/they may reside on my drive.

        Not sure what you mean by "Live Mesh used to keep copies of what is synced."

        The ability to sync folders from any location on your drive with out the need for a cloud component or a centralized folder was/is the reason I use Live Mesh. Now, I might as well use Dropbox. At least I can sync-share out the folders to other users.

        This is one of the last vestiges of Ray Ozzie's vision of distributed computing, of which I was a fan. I love what the cloud brings to the table for technology but the obsessive drive towards making cloud strategy the ONLY strategy is getting old. There are so many more benefits to distributed computing combined with cloud. Not *fake* distributed computing depending on cloud.
        Qube-It
      • Usability Nightmare

        That's the exact problem. I don't want to create a separate file structure in another directory. I want to maintain a single file structure, and have the files available in the cloud, on my phone, etc.
        WebSiteManager
    • I also agree with Le_Poilu

      I totally agree.

      My extended family all use the PC to PC feature to share 100GB+ of photos and home movies.

      Also I travel a lot, I have a work PC at the office, home PC in Australia, laptops, home PC in Taiwan. It's nice having my favourites synced between all these machines and I don't want to have to upgrade everything to Windows 8 all at once just for this feature. Also nice being able to sync up my VS2010 templates and stuff.

      Hell if they take away these features I might as well use something like DropBox which is more stable, and gives me the option of using Linux as my client OS.
      JohnStew
    • You think $50 a year is a lot?

      I don't think $50 a year is a lot for 100 GB.
      jrhdev
    • Absolutely nailed it!

      100% agree with Le_Poilu,

      This isn't about "To Cloud or not to Cloud". Axing Mesh for me would be about simply neutering one of the greatest features of Mesh. The direct PC-PC syncing capabilities. I absolutely love the fact that I can directly sync two folders with any exact PC I want, of any size I want. The latter portion being the MOST important. For example I have two PC's that get all my photos and home videos synced, then my netbook only gets the photo's synced to it.

      Someone mentioned "Is $50 too expensive for 100GB?" The answer is a resounding YES when I can currently sync 700GB if my heart so desired, FOR FREE! Mesh is a game changing piece of functionality that would deeply be missed if it wasn't adopted into SkyDrive, I mean I think the current Mesh handling of SkyDrive is perfect. Your SkyDrive just shows up as yet another PC in your list and you can chose whether to sync to it or not.

      If this gets cut then 2 things will become clear 1) Microsoft simply doesn't get it, and 2) There is a clear ulterior motive to have my data on their servers. Did I mention I can currently sync as much data as I want for completely free with Mesh?! ;-) Please don't take that away...
      TheTechBlock
  • Rip Mesh

    Am still using Dropbox for now since most third party mobile apps interface with Dropbox. Hopefully Microsoft will open up the api to developers.
    issie
  • Is Microsoft's Live Mesh on its way to the graveyard?

    Most likely it is due to being replaced by SkyDrive. It will be one of those applications that quietly goes away.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • Remote Desktop

    My primary use for Live Mesh was the Remote Desktop. Where is that going? I need that feature.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • There are better options anyway

      teamviewer.com works nicely
      LarsDennert
      • Agree

        TeamViewer allows all that and more, and is easier to use.
        rahbm