Microsoft’s just-announced Live Mesh platform is, as most things out of Redmond these days are, a complex offering that can be difficult to understand with the company’s typical marketing-speak and software-plus-services buzzwords. So what the heck is Live Mesh?
Microsoft’s new Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie is the mastermind behind Live Mesh and it’s been in development for two years. Live Mesh, if successful, could change the way PCs and other devices interact with Internet services and each other. Microsoft wants data and applications to be accessible from anywhere — online and off — using any device. When Ozzie came on board many assumed it was because, while Microsoft wouldn’t admit it at the time, the focus of your computing will be moving away from a single centralized desktop. Ozzie was going to bring true “cloud computing” to Redmond.
But what is it exactly?
- What is launching today is an initial look at Live Mesh’s core experience for consumers. It has two key components: an online service that lets users register their devices, and a 2MB software client — called the Mesh Operating Environment — that links and integrates the service into Windows.
- The online component, known as Live Desktop, serves as a device and was designed to mimic the appearance of a Windows desktop. Microsoft sees Live Desktop as the launch pad for online applications and sharing files and information with contacts. It was built on AJAX — not Silverlight — to ensure compatibility, but Silverlight is tied into the experience for viewing media.
- The first introduction to Live Mesh will have two basic functions: sharing files and folders between PCs in a mesh, and providing Remote Desktop functionality via Web browser or the software client. The Remote Desktop feature only works with IE because it requires an ActiveX plug-in.
- The software client installs into Windows and adds the Live Mesh Notifier application, which serves as a “news feed” for things happening in the mesh, and the Mesh Companion bar that integrates into Windows Explorer windows.
- Currently only Windows XP and Windows Vista PCs are compatible with Live Mesh, but Microsoft expects to expand this to the Mac and Windows Mobile phones as time goes on. Users can access the Live Mesh Web site from either Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox.
- The Technology Preview will be available to around 10,000 initial users, and Microsoft expects to gradually increase that number over time. Only those in the United States can participate in the preview, and a Live ID is required. 5GB of storage space will be provided.
- Eventually, Microsoft wants all devices to link up with Live Mesh. This includes phones, DVRs, video game consoles, portable media players, home media centers, and more. However, there are no concrete plans of what to support as of yet; Microsoft wants feedback before making any decisions.
- At the core of Live Mesh is FeedSync, formerly known as Simple Sharing Extensions (a proprietary Microsoft technology, for which it promises not to sue those who utilize it). Microsoft has expanded the concept of feeds to support devices and data. Everything thing is built upon this FeedSync model.
- Applications built for Live Mesh can function both online and off. Any changes made when offline will automatically sync back to the service when connected again, and P2P technology helps keep bandwidth usage at a minimum. These applications can be launched from the Live Desktop.
- However, none of the developer offerings are available today. Over the next “weeks and months,” Microsoft plans to start engaging the developer community and wants applications written atop the Live Mesh platform starting later this year. The file sharing and Remote Desktop applications are essentially just examples of what is possible.
- Live Mesh is still in its early stages. Microsoft is soliciting feedback now so it can learn what developers and the general public likes and doesn’t like. A broader beta test is currently slated for this fall, although it could happen closer to the end of the year. The company expects to be making adjustments over the next 9 to 12 months.
- Although Live Mesh’s current functionality overlaps with Windows Live SkyDrive and FolderShare, Microsoft will continue to provide those services for the time being. In addition, the company plans to eventually integrate other existing Windows Live services (like Hotmail, Photos and Spaces) into Live Mesh.
Want even more info? Head over to BetaNews and get an in-depth scoop on how Microsoft’s ‘Live Mesh’ aims to become the universal window to the Web
. You can also read up Ray Ozzie’s memo: ‘My Computer’ is being replaced by your ‘mesh’ which details his vision for how Live Mesh will work in the computing ecosystem.