Making it Mesh
Microsoft has a series of lectures on campus called The Breakfast Series where guest speakers will give a presentation about current products, technologies, or anything really relevant to the company. This week’s was about Live Mesh and I thought it was a really interesting product, so I wanted to share it with you all.
As everyone should have noticed by now, computing is moving away from a desktop centric model, to a cloud (Internet) based system. Microsoft has been trying for the last few years to figure exactly how they plan to adapt their products to incorporate more web based services. They have numerous ventures into this arena, but nothing complete and cohesive. Live Mesh really seems like it is their final solution.
Basically, the idea with Mesh is to have a central system for synchronizing programs, data, and settings across multiple machines, devices, and web storage. Sure, products like this have been done before. In fact, I can think of two separate tools for this already made by Microsoft. What separates Mesh from the other tools is it’s broad scope and extensibility. Mesh isn’t design to simply be an application that syncs files, it is supposed to be a platform the provides syncing as simple service for applications to build on.
By the time this reaches beta testing it will run on many different devices. XP, Vista, OSX, WinMobile, and some WAP enabled devices should all have a version of the client. The demo shown during the presentation showed a person taking a picture with their smart phone, and it was immediately delivered to the home pc, as well as someone’s laptop who was traveling. I thought it was kind of neat.
Like I said earlier, the real purpose of Mesh isn’t simply to share files, but rather to expose data syncing and cloud functionality to applications. There will be an API for developers to use to allow their programs to sync what ever they want and however they want to the Mesh system. From what was demoed, the API looked very simple and straight-forward. I believed they had a plug in for Firefox that would add FF bookmarks to the Mesh. This sort of system seems like a good solution because it allows the application developer add cloud based data portability without dealing with the complicated nature of it. It will be interesting to see how this system is accepted by the community and how many applications will take advantage of it. I also wonder how it will be used inside of Microsoft. I would like to see something like Outlook syncing the contents of your inbox into this, or maybe the Common Feed List keeping a global synced feed list.
Currently, Mesh is dogfooding inside MS and there is an CTP that you can register for. It took about a week for me to get accepted into the CTP. There should be a public beta coming in the next couple of months, so keep an eye out for it, it’s going to be pretty cool.