Microsoft is developing a platform capable of lots of interesting tricks. I wrote about Live Mesh a few months ago; now an updated version is ready for testing and it’s quietly been made available to anyone with a Windows Live ID. You can get started at www.mesh.com.
FILES ARE SYNCED ON MULTIPLE COMPUTERS AND ONLINE AUTOMATICALLY
Live Mesh starts with online storage space where you can create folders and store up to 5Gb of files. A small bit of software is installed to integrate the “Live Desktop” into Windows so the online folders can be accessed easily.
The next step is to add a computer to your “mesh” and tell Live Mesh to sync a folder on your hard drive with a folder in the online Live Desktop. Immediately, all the contents of the folders are synced back and forth, and any changes in the future at either location are synced right away.
Now add a second computer and similarly designate a folder on the second computer to receive a copy of the same files. Now everything is in sync in folders on both computers and in the online folders. When you make a change on either computer – add a file, edit a file – the change is immediately synced so all locations are identical.
Random trivial example: I set my Favorites folder to sync on both my desktop and notebook computers, so I’ve got a constantly updated list of Internet favorites in both places.
FOLDERS CAN BE SHARED SO MANY PEOPLE CAN WORK ON THE FILES
Okay, now add someone else to share one of those folders. When they install the Live Mesh software and designate a folder on their computer to hold the files, they’ll get a complete copy of the folder synced on their computer, and any change they make is immediately reflected on your computers. A log is displayed whenever you look at the folder to show what changes happened recently and who was responsible.
That’s powerful stuff for collaboration. It’s similar to the online storage with Windows Live Skydrive and Office Live Workplace, but with easier access to the shared files and more information about what’s happening with them.
REMOTE ACCESS TO COMPUTERS RUNNING LIVE MESH
This is exciting! From the Live Mesh website, you can start a remote control session with any computer running the Live Mesh software. The software starts a Remote Desktop session easily and does some technical magic to avoid firewall problems. Reportedly it allows remote control of a computer running Vista Home Premium, which is not otherwise able to host a Remote Desktop session.
The recent update added the ability to sync folders among several computers without also storing a copy online, which might be useful in some circumstances. This makes Live Mesh almost completely overlap the features of Foldershare but with much added functionality. It’s hard to predict but it sure looks like this will make Foldershare irrelevant.
You can find a long writeup of Live Mesh features and lots of screen shots here.
Microsoft is designing Live Mesh as a platform that will be extended to mobile devices and other operating systems (including Macs), and that will be able to do many more things in addition to file syncing and remote access. I can see the possibility that it will become a standard tool for many of us.