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Live Mesh: It's Alive!

Because I use and recommend the ever-in-beta Live Mesh service from Microsoft, I get a lot of questions about it, and how I use it. But with Microsoft not updating its Live Mesh blog since last summer, fears have grown that Microsoft had given up on one of its best offerings. Fortunately, Mary Jo Foley, writes, that's not the case: And it looks like a major Live Mesh update is on the way.

One of the questions about Microsoft I get most often is whatever happened to Live Mesh ... I've tried asking quite a few Softies — even Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, who made Live Mesh his pet project — to no avail.

Look what surfaced over on LiveSide.Net. On February 22, LiveSide posted a bunch of new screen shots and information about some of the long-awaited Windows Live Wave 4 services. Live Mesh — which may be renamed officially to Windows Live Sync, according to Liveside's information — is what I found most interesting.

LiveSide’s new information indicates that the current Live Sync (the product formerly known as FolderShare) is going to be replaced by Live Mesh, aka the new Windows Live Sync. (Yeah, naming complexity continues to plague the Windows Live team...) The old Live Sync could handle P2P sync only and didn't support Live Desktop/cloud storage, so it needed to go.

Here's how Live Mesh is going to work once it’s delivered as part of the Windows Live Wave 4 family, according to LiveSide:

"Windows Live Sync has gotten a complete revamp, pretty much dumping the old FolderShare interface and [becoming] a new ... piece of software in itself. As the client-side [front-end] for Windows Live Devices, Sync will allow you to [synchronize] files between devices and SkyDrive, as well as providing remote access to your PCs over the internet. Perhaps the most interesting piece of news is that Windows Live Sync will also support synchronization of your program settings ... allowing you to [synchronize] your Internet Explorer settings between two or more computers."

This is all very good news. A couple of points here.

Ray Ozzie's decision to let Microsoft pursue separate Live Mesh and Live Sync strategies, where each service had 80 percent overlapping functionality, was bad, because it was confusing for companies and stretched resources too thin. So combining them makes sense, however belated this is. (And of course there are other things, like SkyDrive and even MyPhone, that overlap in other ways as well. Let's get all this stuff centralized, please.)

Using Live Mesh (or whatever it will be called) to sync settings between computers is a great first step to a "settings in the cloud" feature where you set up a new computer, log into your Windows Live ID online, and then have all your custom settings blasted down the PC, negating the need to hand-configure new setups. This will be a boon to people like me, who set up new PCs all the time. But it should also be welcome news to all computer users, since this process is fraught with complexity and a time waster, no matter how infrequently you do it. It will also make the process of just starting over less painful, and thus more frequent for regular users too.

I'm excited about this, because I use and rely on Live Mesh, and was worried that the company was being far too quiet about its plans. MIX'10, which happens in about three weeks in Las Vegas, is obviously the ideal time for Microsoft to announce its plans for Windows Live Wave 4 and Live Mesh's future, so that's probably when the official reveal will occur.

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