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Microsoft Spins a Web - Microsoft Mesh

April 30, 2008

Microsoft hopes to expand its position of being the center of everyone's desktop world to become the center of everyone's internet world by creating a desktop in the cloud. Introducing Live Mesh,  a complex product that promises to enable all your personal computing devices (PC's, Mobile Phones) to seamlessly share files, data and applications from anywhere. 

In his final keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, Bill Gates alluded to what would later be announced as Microsoft Live Mesh, he said: "The second digital decade will be more focused on connecting people. It will be more focused on being user-centric. Microsoft will deliver platforms that will let people build applications. Those applications will run not only on the PC, they'll run up in the internet, or in the cloud, as we say, on the phone, in the car, in the TV."

Live Mesh essentially provides each user with a central desktop on the web called Live Desktop.  A user can install Live Mesh on each of their personal computing devices and then add these devices to their Mesh.  Anything placed on the desktop, folders, data or even Mesh aware applications in the future, will be synched across all devices included in the mesh. In addition with Live Mesh, remote access to all the devices in the mesh - and any programs on those devices - is made available from the Live Desktop.  As Microsoft puts it "Live Mesh puts you at the center of your digital world, seamlessly connecting you to the people, devices, programs, and information you care about- available wherever you happen to be."  Currently Live Mesh only accepts devices running Windows XP 32 bit or Windows Vista 32 and 64 bit.  Support for mobile devices and the Mac are tagged as "coming soon".

What Live Mesh will really provide for developers is an infrastructure and a programming interface on which to build mesh aware applications.  Using new tools and the MeshFX API's provided by Microsoft, and new add-ons to existing tools like Visual Studio,  developers will be able to build rich internet applications that support synchronization and online-offline capabilities.  Microsoft claims Live Mesh will be an open platform targeting developers beyond the Windows/.Net group.  Although both Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Silverlight can be found in the Live Mesh developer stack support for Flash, Cocoa, JavaScript and other non-Microsoft technologies are scheduled for release.  This will be critical to the success of Live Mesh if it is to support the myriad of personal computing devices (beyond the notebook/desktop) in use by the prospective Mesh market, many of which do not run on a Microsoft stack.

Although the promise of synchronization and online-offline support for mobile applications is intriguing, today Live Mesh is definitely in preview/demo mode.   Although I have installed Live Mesh on my XP Desktop, the lack of support for other devices is glaring and synching with my Mac Book Pro is not an option.  The installation also caused a ten minute video refresh cycle on my machine which ended in an instance of Internet Explorer shutting down.  This is Microsoft's biggest challenge and one it has faced with some recent releases of its Beta products like Office Live, where on more than one occasion I have experienced significant performance issues and crashes.  For Live Mesh to generate excitement and succeed it has to  work seamlessly and flawlessly to attract both end users and developers.


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