Microsoft has several overlapping, confusing services. It’s no surprise that most of you have not started to store files online or share online folders.

Here’s a very brief description of the different ways available from Microsoft to move files around.

WINDOWS LIVE SKYDRIVE  Free online storage of up to 25Gb of files. Accessible from web browser; no integrated access from Windows Explorer or Office programs. Web browser is used for all uploading and downloading of files and all file management. (Third party programs can be used for partial integration into Windows Explorer.) Files and folders in Skyrdrive are not synced with any files or folders on a local computer. Links to large files can be emailed but there’s no integration with Outlook to assist with that, and uploaded files cannot be larger than 50Mb each.

WINDOWS LIVE SYNC  Syncs folders between computers, but only if the computers are online and running the program at the same time. No online files.

LIVE MESH  Syncs folders between computers, using online storage as intermediary. The effect is that folders can be stored on more than one computer with reasonable assurance that the files will be up to date at all times on all computers. Although the Mesh “Live Desktop” has an online copy of the files, it is not friendly to use, not well understood, and not integrated with anything.

OFFICE LIVE WORKSPACE  Online storage of Office documents. With the help of an add-in, Office 2007 programs can open and save files directly to Office Web Workspace. Not otherwise integrated with Windows Explorer. All uploading and downloading of files is done from web browser. Controls for working with files are primitive and quirky.

Skydrive, Live Mesh, and Office Web Workspace all store files online, but the three platforms are separate from each other – a file in one system does not show up in the others.

Cross your fingers. There are rumors and hints that Microsoft intends to get this right. If all goes well, then Skydrive will be the place that all files are stored online with Microsoft, and all services will work with the Skydrive files. Here’s an article that brings together some of the clues about that.

There may be some re-branding and re-positioning of the overlapping services.

“Office Live Workspace” will disappear; Office Web Applications will apparently open files directly from Skydrive. It’s hard to know if the name “Skydrive” will be highlighted or if we will refer to “Windows Live Documents.”

Windows Live Sync might disappear, since Mesh is already able to do exactly the same thing – sync directly between two computers. It’s not particularly easy to set Mesh up to do that right now but Microsoft is good at simplifying controls.

Mesh will likely provide the engine for syncing local folders to the cloud, apparently using the name “Windows Live Devices.” It might disappear for all intents and purposes, while we use controls that expose and simplify all the different things you might want to do with a file or folder – store it or sync it online, share it with someone, or sync it with another computer.

Little information has been forthcoming from Microsoft about the changes ahead – vague references to “Windows Live Wave 4” but no details. The most concrete (and the most promising) tidbit came from a blog entry by a member of Microsoft’s OneNote team, where he referred to these features of OneNote 2010:

  • “Sync to Cloud (Windows Live): Your notebooks sync and are available anywhere from any machine. Of course this is in addition to all the existing ways you can sync notebooks (file shares, SharePoint, USB drives etc.)
  • “OneNote Web App: You can access and edit your entire notebook from a browser. Even on a machine that doesn’t have OneNote installed.
  • “OneNote Mobile: A more complete OneNote version for Windows Mobile phones. Syncs whole notebooks. Syncs directly to the cloud. No need to tether your device. Richer editing support.

“Note: The above are not yet available in the Tech Preview unfortunately. We’re still finishing some integration work for sync to Windows Live.”

OneNote notebooks are typically stored in your Documents folder, just like any other document or spreadsheet. If they can be synced to the cloud and made available to Office Web Applications and mobile devices and other computers, then other types of files must also be able to do the same things.

There is a nagging question, though. Is there some reason the article specifically refers to OneNote 2010 – the new version due next spring? Almost everything I’ve described, everything that appears to be coming from the streamlining of the cloud services, is completely independent of Office. It ought to be possible to sync OneNote notebooks as easily as any other file, regardless of the version of Office. Perhaps this is just a reference to a setup routine or menu item that will make it particularly easy in OneNote 2010.

Okay, that’s a blur of names and services. Tomorrow let me paint a picture of where I think (hope) this is going.

Share This