For those who had been following LiveSide, you probably saw this coming, but today Microsoft on their Inside SkyDrive blog officially announced that Windows Live Mesh will be discontinued on February 13, 2013. The blog claims that a majority of Windows Live Mesh users have moved on to use the new SkyDrive desktop app, with only about 25,000 users still using Windows Live Mesh. These users will be notified of the changes soon and will need to move on to the SkyDrive desktop app, or use alternatives.
As a bit of background, Windows Live Mesh started off as Live Mesh beta back in April 2008 as an incubation project headed by Ray Ozzie. At the same time, Microsoft also bought FolderShare from ByteTaxi Inc, which was later on renamed as Windows Live Sync and included in Windows Live Essentials Wave 3. The two competing services didn’t make much sense for users, offering very similar functionality between the two, so in Wave 4 in June 2010, Microsoft merged the two into a product called Windows Live Mesh, and included this in Windows Live Essentials 2011 (Wave 4). Unfortunately, because Windows Live Mesh carried the DNA of Live Mesh beta, its cloud storage space was totally separate from the cloud storage service Microsoft was trying to push – SkyDrive. It wasn’t until April 2012 in when Microsoft released the SkyDrive desktop app, which aimed to solved this problem and replaced Windows Live Mesh in Windows Essentials 2012 (Wave 5). (For more history about Windows Live Mesh, you can check out our previous post here).
Whilst the SkyDrive desktop app provided the functionality to automatically sync your files to a user’s SkyDrive cloud storage, many features in Windows Live Mesh were taken out. It wasn’t only until the recent update when Microsoft added back in the “selective sync” feature. Other main features missing include:
- Remote desktop – Microsoft is advising users to use alternatives such as the built-in Remote Desktop Connection in Windows, or LogMeIn, to replicate this functionality. To access files and folders, the SkyDrive desktop app also provides a “Fetch” functionality so users can still fetch files not synced via SkyDrive.com.
- Ability to sync files and folders shared with you from other users (and Groups) – Microsoft acknowledged that this is one of the “top requests” from customers (along with selective sync, which was added in the last update), however we have not heard whether this is currently in the works or not, but we certainly hope so.
- Ability to select any folder to sync - The SkyDrive desktop app restricted files to be synced within the SkyDrive folder only, rather than the ability to select any files and folders on your PC for syncing in Windows Live Mesh. Microsoft suggests adding SkyDrive folders into the Windows libraries, and pointing default save locations to them, as a workaround. Unfortunately, Microsoft has not indicated they will bring this feature back to SkyDrive, citing that the way Windows Live Mesh previously worked to allow arbitrary folders to be synchronized created many unresolvable complexities and issues, and they wanted to make SkyDrive “just work”.
- Direct PC-to-PC sync – Synchornisation between two PCs with the new SkyDrive desktop app requires a copy being synced on SkyDrive cloud storage as well, whilst Windows Live Mesh supported direct PC-to-PC synchronisation without using SkyDrive cloud storage space. Unfortunately, Microsoft has also not indicated they will bring this feature back to SkyDrive.