Live Mesh was released to some of the general public seven days ago and luckily I was able to get an invite. I know there has been many many comments on the web passing opinion on Live Mesh thus far so one more can’t hurt can it? Hence this blog entry, although perhaps I can offer a slightly different perspective.
The first question I asked myself when I saw Live Mesh was "What now becomes of Foldershare?" Prior to Live Mesh’s release I was assuming that there would be a heavy tie-in with Foldershare ("Foldershare would seem to dovetail quite nicely with [Live Mesh]") but I was very wrong about that. Now I find myself asking what happens to Foldershare and, moreover, why did Microsoft buy it? I’m guessing that they bought it for the skills of the Foldershare staff and the established customer base which they will now hope will migrate over to Live Mesh. I expect Foldershare to die a slow death eventually. This would explain why the recent release of Foldershare didn’t support login with Live ID – that would be stepping too far into Mesh’s territory.
Is Skydrive going to die as well? I suspect not. For now, Skydrive has two important features that Mesh does not have:
- The ability to share a file with any anonymous person on the internet
- The ability to link to a file with a URL (OK, under the covers Mesh has this because every object is a RESTful resource but it is not exposed to the general user)
For those reasons Skydrive still has an important role to play. I suspect that synchronisation between Skydrive and Mesh will occur at some point.
Windows Live Groups
Live Mesh provides the building blocks to support the notion of groups, or communities (member lists) of people associated with a mesh object. These lists are managed via the simple email-web confirmation exchange that is popular on the web. Member lists provide both a simple permission model and a natural scoping for the collaboration features of Mesh. The basic group mechanism can be trivially extended to add entities such as organizations to participate (in an assigned “role”). Similarly, you might invite a SpellChecker bot into a group.
By mention of a bot its very clear that Mike is talking about forming groups of Windows Live IDs (bots are identified by Windows Live IDs). Hey, that sounds very much like my Active Directory In The Cloud idea that I keep banging on about. Defining groups of users and assigning permissions to those groups is an immensely powerful paradigm and even more so when you consider the propensity for collaboration that Mesh will inherently foster. I believe that this is what Windows Live Groups will bring rather than being a like-for-like replacement for MSN Groups and am really looking forward to finding out if I am right.
The future platform
As we all move to a more web-centric world Mesh is a portent of things to come from Microsoft. They seem to have realised that in order to compete in the future they need to do more than rely on the cash cow tag team of Windows and Office, and Live Mesh will be the platform for this web-centric world. As applications move into the cloud the operating system moves back to what it was always meant to be, software that manages your hardware rather than app-ridden, feature-heavy bloatware. Operating systems are going to get more and more commoditised hence I hereby re-assert my belief that Windows will, one day, be free.
How are Microsoft going to make money off this thing? The simple answer at this point in time would seem to be "Advertising" about which I asked on the Live Mesh forum the other day:
- When Live Mesh gets released will it contain advertisements?
The unsurprisingly non-committal answer was:
- Business terms for the platform are still being determined; we will provide additional information as we approach a beta release.
Don’t be surprised to see ads appear on Mesh when it gets released in some way shape or form. This would prove to be a huge money spinner because the amount of time spent with eyeballs on Mesh will be much longer than on, say, a page of search engine results. As VP of Windows Live Platform, Blake Irving, said last summer search accounts for only about 5% of what people do on the web. I’ll stick my neck out here and say that in, ooo… let’s say, four years from today Microsoft will be making more from online advertising than anyone else and Mesh will be the driver for that.
[Actually these interviews with Blake Irving are well worth watching now because its clear that Mesh is the realisation of a lot of what he is talking about. He even talks about Mesh in video 2 without actually putting a name on it]
Its been stated all over the internet to anyone who’ll listen; Mesh isn’t a product, its a platform and I’m excited to see what applications people are going to build on this in the near future. I wonder whether we will see traditional desktop apps such as Office deployed upon it – I suspect that one day we will.
Here are some ideas that could be realised by leveraging Mesh:
- The ability to always have any-time access to your banking transaction history along with the ability to set up personal alerts for possible fraudulent activity is detected
- Monitor your utility (i.e. gas, electricity, water) bills and energy consumption in real-time
- You may have seen those huge iPod vending machines that are now appearing in various airports around the world. Well instead of the flogging of tangible devices, imagine the ability to approach a digital kiosk in a similar fashion and purchase digital content (e.g. songs or films), save that content to your Mesh, and have it automatically sync to your mp3 player when you get home and plug-in. Or even better, immediately sync to your mobile phone over the airwaves.
- Know about breaking news stories as and when they happen regardless of which device you are on
Those are just some ideas that allude to the potential of this sync platform. I’m sure there are plenty of killer apps that nobody has thought of yet.
If you want to get some idea of where Microsoft want to go with applications on Mesh then Ori Amiga’s video "Programming the Mesh" is essential viewing.
Live Mesh forum
Don’t forget that if you have questions about Mesh or feature requests the place to go is the Live Mesh forum.