Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Microsoft Mesh

Details of Microsoft Mesh are finally emerging through the fog of Microsoft's PR department, and I think it's going to be absolutely massive. They've found a way to extend their C: drive monopoly to the web.

Basically, Mesh will turn your PC into an Atom Store, publishing your C: drive to the internet as a set of feeds. You can publish any local Word Documents, images, videos, or even folders.

What's more, your C: drive will obey the Atom Publishing Protocol, meaning other services will be able to post, edit or delete local files. This will be used to synchronise your local content with an online space, presumably a version of Sharepoint with developer APIs. Of course, this will turn every PC into a web server - I suspect the only connections allowed will be to Microsoft's servers.

This is exactly the kind of service I had in mind here!

Microsoft have finally found a way to extend their dominance of the PC to the web - via the C: drive. Now, your pictures in "My Pictures" will be automatically synched with Microsoft Live Photos whenever you turn your PC on. Why would you ever then manually upload them to Flickr? And your Office documents will be automatically synched with a personal Sharepoint that presumably enables document sharing. What's the point now of Google Apps?

Mesh finally makes the slogan "software plus services" meaningful. And they do it by using web standards - HTTP, ATOM and URLs. However, the remaining web standards - HTML, CSS and Javascript - are still being avoided on the client, in favour of binary files like Office documents. That will make it difficult to synch HTML documents created on the web (e.g. lists, and tables) back to the client.

This is definitely a half-way house. The only reason synchronisation is such an issue is that we're still storing data locally on clients, rather than in the cloud. But 50% web technology is much better than 0%, which is what Microsoft provide at the moment. Mesh will protect their Office monopoly for a few more years, but it will still surely crumble eventually in the face of HTML5 and CSS3. Microsoft are betting that Mesh will carry them over until they develop more competitive web applications.

Of course, if you have an Apple iPhone or Mac, or indeed use Linux, you will not synch with Microsoft. You will also have no need to synch with Microsoft if you already rely on full web technology, such as Google Apps. But if they can execute, Microsoft will once more be a force in Silicon Valley.

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