Thursday, July 1, 2010
Microsoft's Sync Strategy: A Bit of a Mess?
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 12:00 PM
"It's fair to say that Microsoft's product offerings are something of a mess. Windows Live Sync and Live Mesh overlap (the difference being that the former is PC-to-PC, the latter is PC-to-cloud), Live Mesh and My Phone overlap (they're both device-to-cloud), and SkyDrive, Live Mesh, and My Phone all overlap (they all incorporate their own cloud storage)."
This article overstates the case slightly - Live Mesh was always a technology preview, nothing more. Live Sync is the consumer-facing sync product from Windows Live, and the new version is using Mesh on the back-end, so it's easy to see that Microsoft's long term plan was to migrate from the original FolderShare code to Mesh. Now that's not to say that the new version of Live Sync is trouble-free...in fact, I think it's almost a disaster in terms of performance. And the limit of 2 GB on Skydrive sync is puzzling...why not let them use the full 25 GB offered by Skydrive and become a market leader in one fell swoop? Maybe there are concerns of people using their 25 GB for piracy and copyright theft?I expect Mesh to be shut down as a service before the end of the year, and hopefully the Skydrive storage component will get increased over time. I think it makes sense for the phone sync component to stand alone for now - it's based on an acquisition by Microsoft - though I hope it comes into alignment with the other services over the next year.
The core concept the author is focused on is correct though: Microsoft seems to be of many minds about about how they want to handle sync. The slow - oh so slow - process of moving Live Sync from it's Linux-based, FolderShare roots to Mesh was the first step. That took years for them to accomplish. They obviously dipped their toe in the water with the Skydrive implementation, and frankly Skydrive has never seemed very usable to me. The author correctly points out that Dropbox has lots of momentum in this space because it's fast, lightweight, easy to use, and has some great features.
If you don't already have a Dropbox account, use this link to sign up - you'll get a bonus 250 MB of space above the 2 GB, and so will I for referring you. It's a win-win. I resisted using Dropbox for a while, and frankly didn't grasp what all the excitement was about. Dropbox isn't a replacement for Live Sync, because it uses a "put your stuff in the magic folder, and the magic folder will get synched across all your PCs" approach while Live Sync uses a different approach: "The folders you already have and use are your magic folders, so they'll get synched across all your PCs". You can use Live Sync the same way as Dropbox, tagging a special folder, minus the cloud sync. I don't want all of my documents and photos in the cloud though - unless it's under secure lock and key with Mozy [affiliate] - so for me Live Sync was the best solution.
However, Dropbox offers something that Live Sync does not, yet easily could with the Skydrive implementation: the ability to put a file inside the Public folder, right click on the file, and get an URL you can share with someone else so they can grab the file. This is simply brilliant - I used it to share a 900 MB ZIP file full of wedding photos with a friend. It was so easy I was shocked - and Microsoft has all the components to make a great competitor to Dropbox, if they can only get their act together...