Derek Lakin

Live Mesh Goes Public

LiveMesh If you’re only just waking up, then you’ll soon find out that the Web is alive with talk of Live Mesh, which has finally gone public having been formally announced at the Web 2.0 conference. There’s an interview with Ray Ozzie up on Channel 91, there’s a video with Abolade Gbadegesin about the Live Mesh Architecture, there’s a demo of Live Mesh on Channel 10, and there’s a video tour of Live Mesh on mesh.com to name a few.

What Is Live Mesh?

Ray Ozzie first introduced Live Mesh at MIX’08, but didn’t go into too much detail. To put it succinctly, Live Mesh is a platform that enables you to keep your data in the cloud by providing online file storage and synchronization of those files between all your devices. The Learn More page on mesh.com does a pretty good job of explaining this in a little more detail.

What this means in layman’s terms is that you’ll be able to access your files wherever you are and whatever device you’re working on. Live Mesh provides a Web interface to access all your stored data2 and currently supports Windows XP and Windows Vista PCs. Microsoft have already stated that they will also be supporting Macs and mobile devices.

There’s some good stuff in the Channel 10 video that shows accessing your different devices from wherever you are by using the Web interface. Under the hood it’s using Remote Desktop technology, but in Live Mesh it will easily traverse firewalls. Several places talk about having 5GB of storage space, so I’d say it was a given that it’s using SkyDrive as the back-end storage provider. The presence integration is also demonstrated showing who’s in the same folder as you and providing Messenger-integration to communicate with them.

How Does Live Mesh Compare to Titan?

Well, in all honesty, my initial reaction to Live Mesh this morning was "I’ve been gazumped!" Live Mesh is what I was trying to achieve with Titan and then so much more (I was never realistically going to be able to support Macs and mobile devices) and on the very day that I provide the first copy of Titan for an early alpha test (thanks Paul).

In reality, there is still a place for Titan to live alongside Live Mesh. With Live Mesh, you are locked into a Microsoft solution, with Titan you can use any online storage provider that provides a public API because Titan provides extensibility to support new storage providers. So, with Titan you can make best use of your existing investment in an alternative storage provider, or you can make full use of multiple storage providers (especially the free ones!) to broaden your storage capabilities.

It may be that trying to compete in this space for a spare time lone developer is too hard, but there is also a possibility that Titan can "plug the gaps" that Live Mesh leaves. My initial idea was to use SkyDrive as the online storage provider for Titan, but there was no public API. When I emailed Dave Treadwell about the availability of the Skydrive API he told me that they didn’t have anything that they could announce yet. My guess is that they’ve been holding onto it because it’s an important part of Live Mesh. By keeping it under wraps until after Live Mesh is released, they make it harder to provide a Live Mesh-style application that makes use of the same level of integration that Live Mesh does (such as Messenger access). I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find the SkyDrive API appearing very soon, possibly as part of the Live Mesh API. So, it may well be that Titan could find a new home as a plug-in or extension to Live Mesh.

When Can I Get Live Mesh?

There is already a Technology Preview of Live Mesh available, which was firstly made available to MIX’08 attendees3. No doubt, as time goes on, availability of Live Mesh will be expanded and the number of users will be increased. I think Ray’s talking about ramping up over the summer with broad developer availability at PDC in the autumn.

Moving Forwards

For now, I still see Titan as a valuable application alongside Live Mesh by providing access to multiple storage providers. I hope that the SkyDrive API is available soon so that I can create a SkyDrive provider for Titan because I think the SkyDrive service is a good one. In the mean time, I’m going to keep going with the development of Titan and look forward to getting some user feedback.

1 They start talking about Live Mesh from about 16:30 onwards.

2According to Nikhil Kothari, who’s been using Live Mesh, the Web interface does a very good job of providing a Vista-like Explorer and Desktop experience for accessing your data online.

3 I was an attendee at MIX’08 (and had a great time), but I have fallen foul of that age-old problem, I don’t live in the States.