Live Sync, Live Mesh, SkyDrive and why patience is a virtue

There has been some confusion recently about conflicting products and services coming out of the Windows Live group.  There’s a good explanation for the confusion but first to give some context.

Last week the FolderShare team both rebranded and launched a new version named Live Sync.  Here’s what Windows Live Sync is in a nutshell:

  • Live Sync is a released product (albeit beta)
  • Live Sync (FolderShare 2.0) will sync files across PC and Mac so you can get access to your important files on different machines. 
  • You can share files and folders with other people. 

Then there’s also SkyDrive too:

  • SkyDrive is a released service
  • SkyDrive gives you storage on the internet
  • SkyDrive allows you to share your files with other people

So let’s see how that compares to Live Mesh.  Here’s what Live Mesh is in a nutshell:

  • Live Mesh is a beta, Live Framework is in Technology Preview
  • Live Mesh will sync files across your Live Desktop (a desktop in the browser that points to your online storage), PC, Mac, Windows Mobile, and many other devices.
  • You can share files and folders with other people.
  • Live Mesh allows you to remotely control Windows PCs
  • Live Mesh is an app built on technology available in the Live Framework
  • Live Mesh has an App Catalog where developers will be able to release their apps
  • Live Mesh enables developers to create apps that work seamlessly online and offline
  • Live Mesh and Live Framework is useful for all kinds of developers; Web developers, windows developers, mobile developers, device developers.

Whilst there is definitely some cross-over with the three products and services above, hopefully it’s clear to see that there is one which stands out as a longer term platform play.  Place your bets.

Why are we even talking about this though?  Why the cross-over in functionality?  Well it’s due to the Ray Ozzie effect.  It’s a good thing though, only if you understand why it’s happening.  Over the past three years Ozzie has been trying to change the culture of the company to one where Microsoft behaves more like a startup.  In start-up mode, free from the politics and cross-team collaboration, Microsoft’s many product teams are able to innovate much faster, delivering more useful, game changing products and services. 

The drawback is that you lose some of the unification and convergence on a single product.  This problem is amplified now due to the nature of the “perpetual beta” where it’s socially acceptable to release test bits for an app or service.

The recent article on Wired that digs into the man that is Ozzie explains the whole thing very well.  David Treadwell who I work with on Live Services, talks about the transition from Gate’s joined up approach to Ozzie’s startup culture.

Ozzie spent a lot of time crafting a different kind of work environment at Microsoft. "He was very intentional about getting stuff done quickly, focusing on the end customer," Treadwell says. Previously, a big part of any development team at Microsoft was making sure its new product worked in lockstep with everything else the company produced. This "unification" criterion was something that Gates had always hammered on. But Ozzie saw that while that approach avoided annoying conflicts, it also tended to smother innovation in the cradle. "This philosophy of independent innovation—really making progress before you pursue serious integration, is something Ray pushed very strongly," Treadwell says. Ozzie's approach was to encourage people to rush ahead and build things. Then he'd have a team of what he calls the spacklers fill in the gaps and get things ready for release.

So in summary, we’ve got cross-over because our teams are innovating, trying out different ways of solving complex problems.  It’s all part of the plan.  There will be unification and convergence – bear with us, we appreciate your patience and we promise it will be worth it.

Comments (15)
  1. james says:

    Thanks for the comment Jorge.  Just for the record, I don’t have a skateboard. 🙂  

    There is money to be made in social networking, I think it’s going to drive product development and marketing in a new direction.  We’re only in the first 5 minutes of the first quarter.

  2. james says:

    @John – yeah I agree, good suggestion.

    @Sankar – expect Live Mesh to be the solution going forward.

    @Darren – Yes Office Live Workspace provides some overlap, but consider Live Mesh as more a consumer offering. Whereas Office Live Workspaces is more business orientated.

  3. james says:

    yes – that is possible, so we need to put in place a smooth transition between services and communicate that to them effectively.

  4. james says:

    Yeah, good spot, I meant Live Framework in CTP and Live Mesh in beta. made the change.

    Cheers dude.

  5. Andy Parkes says:

    Great comparision…certainly helps it make more sense

    I thought Live Mesh was in Beta now though?

  6. Robin Capper says:

    Thanks James, I’m enjoying Mesh and have also used Skydrive but didn’t really understand the overlaps in the current mix.

    The only downside to this strategy will be if the various services don’t converge cleanly when/if they do. I currently have to use two Windows Live IDs for Live thanks to legacy & newer services colliding.

  7. Andy Parkes says:

    No probs

    Still a good post!

  8. Joe says:

    But the problem with having competing products is that consumers will avoid adopting anything until they know it’s *the* solution.  They will have a fear that the product that they are investing time into will be dropped in favor of another.  That would be my concern now with Live Sync.

  9. John says:

    I’ve installed all three in addition to dropbox and pointed them all at the same folder in order to court disaster. it would be nice if the storage were the same 25gb pool from skydrive, or just aggregate all of them 25 + 5

  10. Sankar_1 says:

    I want to be able to sync my files to my skydrive… I think sync is unable to do that at this point. Is there any other solution or will Sync support that in the future?

  11. Darren Stephens says:

    As an earlier adopter of technology I’ve come across and used to some degree all of these offerings. Today I played with Office Live Workspace Beta, again there appears to be overlap.

    The explanation you’ve provided is useful and one I appreciate.

    I think it would be great if Live Sync or Mesh or Office Live Workspace could sync with Skydrive and that Skydrive appeared as a drive on my local pc. When I save to the skydrive on local pc it syncs to the cloud.

  12. Darren Stephens says:

    Thanks for the quick response James. Based on your responsed seems like I need to spend more time with Live Mesh.

  13. Erik Winkelman says:

    HI James…any updates on this? If I’m going to ever use Office Live, it will need to sync to my Skydrive/Mesh folder. Otherwise, there is really no good reason to store duplicates of my files there. Whether you are looking our needs as "consumer" or "business" , we’re all looking for a single solution. For now, I’m going with Skydrive, and backing up my folders manually to my pc as needed.

  14. P-Easy, K-Shizzeh (PenaltyKillah) says:

    Windows SkyDrive and Live Mesh should merge… remote desktop stays. And me want multiple/folder upload! O|O,

    Syncing ability of Live Sync would merge… now copies of the synced files will be available online and whatever computers it is synced to. (Hey, that’s exactly what Live Mesh does! Cancel Live Sync then! >_>")

    And Office Live Workspace Beta or whatever name it is? It will be a component in the new merged thing, as in the option: "Do you want to share ‘Letter.doc’ or ‘Jessie getting sexy.avi’ with friends or colleagues?"

    Overall, this merged Windows Live thingy would be a file syncronization / disk backup remote desktop with sharing abilities with other people and/or the public. There, done!

  15. jorge says:

    I think it’s self indulgent nonsense.  The culture at Microsoft still hasn’t changed in fact it’s worse now.  Now you have a bunch of IT brats working in there own private Idaho regardless of Marketing research from heavy hitters like Ogilvy and Mathers.  The numbers don’t lye.   About 33% of internet users are involved in social networking.  The interesting trend is that this percentage seems to be static and they seem to fall into a market category.  One of the characteristics of this segment being that they are the most poorly educated segment of the market.  Another being the least revenue producing segment in relation to internet sales.  I hope Ballmer is paying attention to this instead of the scateboarding marketing group he has hired.  Ogilvy and Mathers states that basically they are digging a ditch into what is basically a "non-sustainable market".  In other words advertizing eyeballs just not the ones companies are interested in.

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