Live Mesh; the near and far future

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Live Mesh is useful now even in technical beta – here a few wish list items plus a little crystal ball gazing.

Update:  about the time we published this article there were major changes to Live Mesh.  It’s now advanced to ‘beta’ form and not ‘Technical Preview’.  It can be installed by people in any country around the world.  Some but not all of our ‘wish list’ is now implemented …

Live Mesh is only in beta (sorry ‘Technical Preview’) and there’s new features coming all the time. Even after the first official release of Live Mesh, hopefully there’ll be changes in the future.

Better file / folder selection is top of the list. The current ‘choose a folder’ option will give way to finer selection methods like choosing a single file, excluding selected files and only files below a certain size. Most useful would be date criteria – it would be great to select the entire ‘My Documents’ folder tree with only files ‘touched’ in the last 30/60/90 days being synced to your Live Mesh account or other devices. This would let you work on current projects automatically from wherever you are.

There are rumors that Live Mesh will allow some peer-to-peer sharing within local networks. Currently all files have to be synched via your Live Mesh account even if the connected devices are all present on the same local network. There’s no way to sync files between two devices quickly and without the cloud. This makes for very inefficient use of Internet bandwidth and is a worry for those with privacy concerns.

As with too many Microsoft programs, there’s an overall assumption that people always have cheap and fast Internet access. That’s not always the case. Travellers have intermittent access and there are millions of people in developing countries for whom any kind of broadband is a distant dream. Many broadband users have data transfer limits which the discreetly acting Live Mesh could easily overrun. Live Mesh seems pretty good at syncing in the background without interfering with regular Internet use, however there should be finer controls to throttle back or temporarily stop file transfers on a global or ‘per connection’ basis (the latter so Live Mesh doesn’t overuse an expensive mobile broadband link).

Presumably more viewers, especially for Office documents will be forthcoming.

There needs to be smarter actions when acting on a document stored in cloud when a locally stored copy already exists. At present, if you click on a file saved on the Live Desktop it will download a copy to your computer before opening the file – that’s wasted time and bandwidth when the file is already synced to that computer.

Mobile devices, especially Windows mobile devices will greatly benefit from Live Mesh. The current methods of syncing files between a PC and a Windows Mobile device are primitive, to put it kindly. When Live Mesh comes to mobile devices you’ll finally be able to nominate one or more file/folders to sync with your device – a feature that is many, many years overdue.

These and many other suggestions are on the current Live Mesh team ‘To Do’ list. While we like Live Mesh in its current form, what’s really interesting are the future possibilities …

Live Mesh runs on a series of XML based data streams – in simple terms imagine an exchange of RSS feeds between a Live Mesh computer and the cloud. Those feeds don’t have to contain files (as they do at present), they could contain any data to be stored or retrieved from the cloud and shared with other computers.

In other words, Live Mesh is Microsoft’s way to share your information between computers so it’s available wherever you are.  ‘Information’ doesn’t just mean whole files.

These Live Mesh feeds will be accessible by any programmer. There are various technologies available with the usual alphabet soup of options available RSS, ATOM etc. In time programmers tools will be published. With those tools Live Mesh applications will become real.

In a simple form, Live Mesh enabled apps will be able to store information directly into your Live Mesh account (as opposed to saving to file which is then synced with Live Mesh). This is more efficient, especially for large storage because only the changes are saved each time, not the whole file.

Microsoft gives the example of an accounting program where the data is stored in a Live Desktop storage for you to give read-only access to your accountant.

We anticipate Live Mesh (or its successor) could become a new method of shared data storage that can be accessed by Office applications. Currently Access developers can store data in MDB files or SQL databases – in the future there’ll be come way to work with cloud data storage with changes recorded in a local computer then synced with some online storage system. Excel could pull the latest data from a Live Desktop store directly into a worksheet.

Live Mesh will also be able to run programs on the Live Desktop storage, not just store files for use elsewhere. To continue the accounting example from Microsoft, you could upload accounts data from a local computer then view or edit it online using a program running on the cloud computer. A simpler example might be some editing and tagging features for photos stored on the Live Desktop.

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