Live Mesh proves that Microsoft gets it. It’s taken a long time for Microsoft to realize the importance of the cloud and cloud computing, but with Live Mesh we’ve seen a killer app that really gets it.
The concept of Live Mesh is pretty simple and not really new. Basically it’s a way to store your documents online. The real difference in Mesh is not just about online storage, it’s about syncing files. When you create a Live Mesh folder on the Live Mesh Desktop you can access it from anywhere. By that I mean any web browser, or any Windows, OSX or Windows Mobile device with the software installed. When you’re using the actual application it seamlessly keeps your local version of that folder in sync with the online version. Sounds simple and really it is.
The thing is this goes beyond just having your word documents anywhere you want. If you use your windows mobile phone as your camera you can simply designate the photo folder on your phone as a Live Mesh folder and now all your photos are instantly on any computers you have set up. I take a picture on my phone and as soon as Mesh syncs I’ve got it on my netbook and my laptop. For the first time my data really does follow me everywhere. Once Office Live releases I’ll actually be able to sit down at any computer and write and with apps like Photoshop online I can edit my photos too. But wait, there’s more.
Live Mesh also gives you collaboration tools. You give other users permission to access your documents and even see a history of who’s changed files. With a few more features this could become an important project management tool. We’re already starting to use it at work to keep Marketing files up to date when people are on the road or at home. Basically Live Mesh truly puts your data in the cloud. What’s next?
We’re seeing phones with very capable digital cameras and capable digital video cameras aren’t far behind (even an 8 megapixel camera doesn’t make for very good video, it’s just not designed for moving pictures). So now my home movies are anywhere I am. Now imagine a Live Mesh app on XBox 360 and other media extenders. This is one step away from streaming home videos. Who needs a DVD with their movie burned to it. Heck, it’s possible there could be a TiVO app to extend this too. Now we’re talking a few years down the road but this sort of tech is enabling a truly digital age. In fact I think we have to call the coming age something different, maybe the cloud age. That’s where everything is heading and Microsoft has finally seen the light.
We’re finally getting real competition in the cloud app arena, Google may not be the top dog much longer, especially if Office Live delivers the ambitious set of features we expect to see. Web based apps are becoming more and more powerful everyday, they’re a bit behind the curve when compared to desktop apps but they are starting to close that gap. When you can go to a webpage, log in and have access to your own desktop, complete with webapps and documents nothing is left to tie you down (except for games, but with bandwidth increasing the future holds live streaming game content that’s another article though). On average web apps require fewer system resources that installed apps. What this means is as more apps migrate to the web and as technology progresses, computers capable or running these apps will decrease in size. A future of wearable computers is in sight, netbooks are just the first step.
Google didn’t really get the ball rolling but the certainly brought public attention to the ball. Now Microsoft is refining the ball and reinventing themselves in the process. The future of Microsoft isn’t Windows and they’ve seen that. The world of computers is changing in such a way that my generation could get quickly left behind if we don’t keep up with changing software technology. I know plenty of people from my fathers generation stuck in a pre-GUI world and the cloud is changing everything again.