When will Microsoft's Live Mesh matter?

When will Microsoft's Live Mesh matter?

Summary: This week, I asked some of the executives and teams participating in Microsoft's consumer open-house showcase in New York about how and when they planned to start making use of Live Mesh. The stammers and blank stares I got back said a lot to me.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Microsoft, CXO
30

It was April 2008 when Microsoft rolled out a first beta of its Live Mesh synchronization/backup software. The promise was Live Mesh would help users more seamlessly integrate ther PCs, phones, digital picture frames, Xbox consoles -- the whole gamut -- and not just devices from Microsoft. It sounded almost as though Live Mesh was a precursor to, if not the heart of, the whole three-screens-and-a-cloud strategy Microsoft execs have been increasingly touting.

But maybe not. This week, I asked some of the executives and teams participating in Microsoft's consumer open-house showcase in New York about how and when they planned to start making use of Live Mesh. The stammers and blank stares said a lot to me.

I asked Robbie Bach, the President of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division about how and when he expected teams in his unit to take advantage of Live Mesh. He didn't have a whole lot to say. He noted that Live Mesh is more plumbing/infrastructure than something Microsoft plans to offer as a new product or service directly to consumers.

"My Phone (Microsoft's new Windows Mobile service for provisioning and securing phones) is not using all of Mesh today," Bach said. Sometime, Microsoft could use Mesh to help replicate files and other information across multiple devices, he said. But that's going to happen "tomorrow," Bach said.

Not to be a contrarian, but I'm actually not sure that My Phone is using Live Mesh today, either. I asked Aaron Woodman, Director of Product Management for Windows Mobile about the WinMo team's intentions around Live Mesh and got a similarly vague statement.

"From a techncal standpoint, Live Mesh is important," Woodman said. "But it's more about plumbing. It's not something we will put in front of consumers."

A year ago, members of the Mesh team were contemplating how to make consumer devices like Zune and Xbox part of a user's Mesh. (In other words, to make the kinds of scenarios highlighted in this much-shared Live Mesh marketing/promotional video a reality.) But how and when is this going to happen?

Microsoft has continued to provide beta updates to Live Mesh for the past year and a half. There's a Live Mesh software development kit out there. Testers who are using the Live Mesh beta seem to really love it, from feedback I've gotten. Undeniably, something is changing with Mesh -- strategy and/or technology-wise Microsoft has been moving supporting Live Services components of its Azure cloud environment around as of late. But the Softies claim Live Mesh is alive and well and not a victim of the product/head-count cuts Microsoft has been making.

Given the champion of Live Mesh is none other than Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie himself, you'd think product teams at Microsoft would be falling all over themselves to Mesh-ify their products and services.Maybe Microsoft will have something tangible to show and say at the Professional Developers Conference in November, given that it would be the perfect place to talk about Live Platforms Services and the "Live Mesh Cloud."

But when Mesh will actually figure in Microsoft's products/services line-up is anyone's guess at this point.

Topics: Microsoft, CXO

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).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

30 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I consider live Mesh to be one of the killer apps...

    ... on my Windows Mobile phone. That explains a lot there. If Microsoft can't get Windows Mobile straight, what hope is there for ancillary services?
    rob05667
    • My use case

      Some of the posters have indicated that they aren't familiar with how Live Mesh is used. It can synchronize files and entire folders between multiple computers, mobile devices, and the cloud.

      I have a Touch Pro and a personal Exchange account that synchronizes my e-mail, contacts, and calendar items over the air (OTA). I use Live Mesh to provide OTA sysnchronization for everything else I want to keep on my phone - spread sheets, stories I'm writing, e-books. The only time I physically plug my phone into my computer is when I need to sync my media library.
      rob05667
  • it is odd

    It's bizarre that they haven't used it in other ways. I love it for backup of photos and files, but it could be used for so much more using the Live login from various devices.

    But that's Microsoft - products are developed, then forgotten or left undeveloped to potential.

    It should be the storage center for Live Photo gallery, backup for Windows Mobile data, storage for Office Live documents, storage for Marketplace software purchases, etc. While these things can be accomplished by using Mesh folders on your computer, they should be happening without user interaction.

    Of course, then you get into asking questions like "why isn't Skydrive just part of Mesh?" or "why doesn't the entire Live website interact with Mesh?"

    Despite attempts to show otherwise, most Microsoft products seem to be developed without discussion between teams.
    coffeeshark
  • "Mesh-ify". I like it!

    Seriously, the term "Live Mesh" is another example of
    Microsoft's apparent inability to name products in a way that
    gives SOME clue about the product's functionality. Do you
    suppose Joe Sixpack knows (or cares) what Live Mesh is? I
    realize it's not always possible to name a product so its use is
    crystal clear, but I think Microsoft could have done a lot better
    here. Product names really ARE important. "Live Mesh" is a little
    too close to "Live Mess", don't you think???

    Actually, I think "Vista" was one of the better product names
    Microsoft has come up with. Too bad the same couldn't be said
    about the product's quality.
    Userama
  • RE: When will Microsoft's Live Mesh matter?

    Goes back to the fundamental problem Microsoft has about sharing technology across divisions. No Silverlight platform on XBOX. No Mesh. No Browser. Zune software not written in WPF.
    Each division has their own strategy.
    joe1972
    • Zune Software is...

      written in WPF. The desktop software, that is.
      rjohn05
  • Live Wave 4?

    I thought Mesh was going to become the guts of a new sync service to be part of Live Wave 4 update.

    rjohn05
  • RE: When will Microsoft's Live Mesh matter?

    I use live mesh but hearing a MS guy say that it is not something they will put in front of consumers and who knows what the plans are is disheartening. Who knows then how long it will last? It is sad when you think you might be better off relying on a startup sync service than MS's solution. They are the only company that has the width and breadth to pull together a comprehensive home>office>mobile>cloud solution but the tasks seems to have frightened and confused them and despite bright spots they are increasingly incoherent and without an overall strategy. I still love that they talk about "4 screens" now when their old "3 screen" vision is a shambles. The fact that there is next to no interaction between the zune hd and xbox is a great example. There could not be a better match yet nothin'...Pathetic. The blank stare when asking a MS person a question about a service outside their fiefdom should be the new logo.
    Helio99000
  • RE: When will Microsoft's Live Mesh matter?

    I use live mesh but hearing a MS guy say that it is not something they will put in front of consumers and who knows what the plans are is disheartening. Who knows then how long it will last? It is sad when you think you might be better off relying on a startup sync service than MS's solution for fear that it will become yet another wild goose chase.

    They are the only company that has the width and breadth to pull together a comprehensive home>office>mobile>cloud solution but the task seems to have frightened and confused them and despite bright spots they are increasingly incoherent and without an overall strategy. I still love that they talk about "4 screens" now when their old "3 screen" vision is a shambles. The fact that there is next to no interaction between the zune hd and xbox is a great example. There could not be a better match yet nothin'...Pathetic. The blank stare when asking a MS person a question about a service outside their fiefdom should be the new logo.
    Helio99000
  • RE: When will Microsoft's Live Mesh matter?

    There is no great secret here. Mesh is going into Windows Live Wave 4. MJ, I'm sure you already know this because you've blogged about it (remember saying that the Mesh and WIndows Live teams were merging?) so I'm a bit confused as to why you've written what you've written here. Mesh's immediate future is very very clear.

    -Jamie
    jamiet
    • Mesh in Win Live Wave 4

      Hi. Yes, MS reorged earlier this year to put the Live Mesh and Win Live team under Sinofsky. And yes, there are rumors that Live Mesh will somehow figure in Live Wave 4. If MS execs are saying Mesh is plumbing and it won't be something provided directly to consumers (as they did when I asked them yesterday), I'm curious what you think their strategy is... What do you think they are going to do with Mesh in Win Live if it isn't one of the Live services provided to consumers?

      I'm not asking this rhetorically. I have no idea what they are doing with Mesh at this point, given that the consumer teams don't really seem to know when they will make use of Mesh or how it will figure in their products and services. I am genuinely confused.

      If you think their strategy is clear, please elaborate on it because I am curious! Thanks. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Live Mesh vs. Live Framework

        I agree, their language is confusing. However,
        when they say Live Mesh is plumbing that won't
        be provided directly to consumers, I believe
        they are talking about what is (or was) known
        as the Live Framework which is the development
        platform side of Live Mesh.

        Another possibility is that Live Mesh as we
        know it is going away as a front end and is
        instead becoming the plumbing for Windows Live
        Devices and other services.
        http://www.liveside.net/main/archive/2009/09/24
        /skydrive-to-become-the-center-stage-of-
        windows-live.aspx

        Live Framework was taken offline on September
        8th with no message given on when (or if) it
        might come back online.
        http://dev.live.com/blogs/devlive/archive/2009/
        08/21/500.aspx

        As David Treadwell says in that announcement,
        "Now we are working to integrate existing
        services, controls and the Live Framework into
        the next release of Windows Live." So Jamie's
        statement appears to be correct not only for
        Live Mesh, but for Live Framework as well.

        It appears they are making significant
        architectural changes to Live Framework (and
        perhaps Live Mesh too) that they aren't quite
        ready to share with the world, and they don't
        want developers to continue building on a
        platform that is making such large changes.

        My guess is that we'll learn all about the
        change in direction at PDC09.
        odenni
        • Yes

          I think they will announce something interesting at PDC, my guess is that will be integrated once and for all into Live Services
          keoz
  • Live Mesh loses money

    It's good but how can you justify pouring more resource into it when you cannot profit off it? I guess that's why there's no incentive to further develop it, not when there's a depression going on.
    LBiege
  • I love mesh

    It is still a bit buggy but it works slick.

    Much better than internet hosted storage because it is so integrated into explorer. When it starts working on cell phones that is going to be very cool.

    I love it. And the remote control works in situations where LogMeIn doesn't. Our company blocks the LogMeIn website but this doesn't work for Mesh, so I have two-way access to work and home pcs just using the internet. The graphics handling isn't near as good but it works and its available without login 24/7.
    DevGuy_z
    • LiveMesh: Nice .. but..

      Works nicely, no hassle, not too quick but very workable.

      Only big issue I'm having with it: when using a multiple-monitor config (at work we're having a 3-monitor setup), the Mesh-DisplayCurtain driver installs itself as 'display #2'.
      When using RemoteDesktop to access that 3-display system, the desktop gets messed up big time due to the mesh-displaydriver.
      HBE
  • RE: When will Microsoft's Live Mesh matter?

    I've used the live mesh beta, and dropbox, and evernote, and
    mobile me. They seem related to me.

    Unless live mesh becomes something other than what I see in the
    beta, I say, if it isn't in front of a customer, it will fail.
    philoserf
  • Live Mesh is really great

    I hope this is not a sign that they're going to kill it off.

    Live Mesh is great for pushing OneNote Notebooks out to several PCs -- much better than trying to get them all to read form the same place. And because of the real-time saving of OneNote (saves constantly as you edit), the addition of Live Mesh as an automatic syncronizing engine makes it the most seamless wide-scale mechanism I use.
    Speednet
  • Microsoft grows less relevant by the day. nt

    nt
    T1Oracle
    • Hater

      Everyone on this blog post says they love live
      mesh. Personally, I haven't used it. Regardless
      all you can give is this one liner, with no
      backing argument?
      bmonsterman