Why Microsoft Live Mesh will fail with early adopters

OK, OK, forget for a moment that many early adopters are serious Mac fans and are trying to wash Microsoft out of their hair.

I’ve stumbled onto what really is challenging for companies that want me to load software onto my computer: when something goes wrong we start uninstalling everything to see if there’s something the matter. And things with limited utility are gonna stay uninstalled.

Joel Spolsky said this yesterday about Live Mesh, but came at it another way.

I just had a problem with Skype video and I uninstalled everything to see if I could get my system to behave. Guess what? After uninstalling 10 things Skype video works great. I need Skype video a lot more than I need backup.

So, guess what goes? Everything but Skype video.

Fail. And we wonder why most of what gets the hype lately is Web sites? Here you go. Sorry Ray Ozzie.

71 thoughts on “Why Microsoft Live Mesh will fail with early adopters

  1. I really wish Apple frees .Mac so everybody else knows how to do web stuff that appeals to the end user, not just the developer or geeky type.

    Mesh is a failure worse than hailstorm.

  2. I really wish Apple frees .Mac so everybody else knows how to do web stuff that appeals to the end user, not just the developer or geeky type.

    Mesh is a failure worse than hailstorm.

  3. Wow… uninstalling random software to fix a flaky OS? Sure takes me back to my Windows days.

    - happy Linux user

  4. Wow… uninstalling random software to fix a flaky OS? Sure takes me back to my Windows days.

    - happy Linux user

  5. I think many people, early adopters or not, technology savvy or not, are getting increasingly fed up and exasperated with MS’s tendency to dump buggy, ill thought out and crashable software on an unsuspecting public. Look at the Vista disaster, for example. As an incandescent friend said recently, “They hide everything, so you have to stumble over what you don’t want to get what you do want. And then it keeps crashing.”

    Will Mesh be any different? The concept might sound cool, but execution is crucial for the long running health of any business. Fail at that too many times and people will start looking elsewhere.

    Fed up with Windows and high priced Office, I switched to Apple gradually; I’m not technology geek but I do like stuff that works. Stuff like a stable OS, a search tool that looks for a word in the document (Spotlight), a phenomenal backup system (Time machine), an easy to set up wi-fi… the list goes on. Files can be easily shared between different computers across my wi-fi network between the office and the garden, for example. It even mirrored my old Dell’s hard drive for easy copying of hundreds of old files in minutes, all without a cable. I didn’t need an instruction manual, it was intuitive and easy. It was also very stable.

    My point is, would I trust MS not to make a balls up of Mesh and offer yet another buggy, flawed and unstable software? My experience tells me to be cynical, weary and suspicious.

  6. I think many people, early adopters or not, technology savvy or not, are getting increasingly fed up and exasperated with MS’s tendency to dump buggy, ill thought out and crashable software on an unsuspecting public. Look at the Vista disaster, for example. As an incandescent friend said recently, “They hide everything, so you have to stumble over what you don’t want to get what you do want. And then it keeps crashing.”

    Will Mesh be any different? The concept might sound cool, but execution is crucial for the long running health of any business. Fail at that too many times and people will start looking elsewhere.

    Fed up with Windows and high priced Office, I switched to Apple gradually; I’m not technology geek but I do like stuff that works. Stuff like a stable OS, a search tool that looks for a word in the document (Spotlight), a phenomenal backup system (Time machine), an easy to set up wi-fi… the list goes on. Files can be easily shared between different computers across my wi-fi network between the office and the garden, for example. It even mirrored my old Dell’s hard drive for easy copying of hundreds of old files in minutes, all without a cable. I didn’t need an instruction manual, it was intuitive and easy. It was also very stable.

    My point is, would I trust MS not to make a balls up of Mesh and offer yet another buggy, flawed and unstable software? My experience tells me to be cynical, weary and suspicious.

  7. I don’t like Mesh because I can see at a glance that it’s communist collectivism.

  8. I don’t like Mesh because I can see at a glance that it’s communist collectivism.

  9. It’s going to fail with early adopters because most of us are already using VNC and know our IPs, so there’s no need for this when we can just remote into our own pc to access files.

  10. It’s going to fail with early adopters because most of us are already using VNC and know our IPs, so there’s no need for this when we can just remote into our own pc to access files.

  11. I’m not sure I get the logic behind this post. “x will fail because people uninstall stuff as part of troubleshooting,” where x is any application that requires installation? “Web sites” FTW? But Skype is an application that requires installation, not a “web site,” so you seem to be arguing against yourself.

    If anything you seem to be saying that an application has to have a lot of value in order to stay installed on your PC… but I’m not sure you can logically get to “Why Microsoft Live Mesh will fail” from there…

    I don’t get Joel’s Spolsky’s post, either, and normally he’s a good writer. It’s a rant about how he doesn’t want a “1955 Salisbury steak” and yet it’s served to him over and over and over. He’s apparently looking for a Lean Cuisine featuring “lightly braised veal medallions in a white wine reduction,” but last time I looked, Stouffer’s was selling a hell of a lot of Salisbury steak, so somebody must want it. :-)

    I know a lot of people — not necessarily early adopters — who have banged their heads against the problem of using iTunes with multiple PCs and multiple devices.

    - Someone has their music library at home, but not at work.
    - Someone wants to rent a movie at work and have it show up at home.
    - Someone wants to move their library from one PC to another.
    - Someone wants to back up their library but not spend a sunny Saturday afternoon shuffling blank DVD-Rs into their PC. etc.

    Live Mesh at least has the potential to make those problems completely go away.

    Ironically, simple synchronization was one huge reason for the success of iTunes. You just plug in your device, boom, it’s synched. You didn’t need to worry about resolving update conflicts or whether you wanted to replace older versions, etc. — it just worked. It was FAR easier than Windows Media, and by the time Microsoft figured it out and came out with Zune, it was too late.

    If Live Mesh gave people enough space to upload their iTunes libraries, there would be massive adoption on that one application alone. You could rent a movie at work and it would be waiting for you by the time you got home and microwaved your Salisbury steak dinner.

    Why was Blackberry a success? Same thing, simple synchronization. All your email everywhere at the same time.

    Why is the iPhone going to drive sales of Microsoft Exchange and vice versa? Instant push email with your mail, contacts and calendar all synchronized.

    Now, imagine you take a photo with your camera. Your camera automatically puts the picture in your Mesh Pictures folder. Joel says people like Picasa, people like Flickr — maybe there’s an app that automatically runs and uploads your new pictures to Picasa and Flickr and your blog, without you having to do a thing. Or maybe people just have an RSS feed into your Mesh Pictures folder, so they don’t use the web apps anymore…

    Repeat with contacts, calendar items, email messages, browsing history, bookmarks, wish lists, stuff you bought… you can see where this is going….

    What they’re trying to do is admirable. Whether they will succeed or fail is probably more of a function of how well Live Mesh works — do they give you enough space? Does it cost too much? Does it bog down your PC? Is it too hard to use? etc.

    It won’t just “fail” simply because it requires installation. And it won’t fail because some early adopters are “serious Mac fans” who feel defiled whenever they have to touch a Microsoft product.

  12. I’m not sure I get the logic behind this post. “x will fail because people uninstall stuff as part of troubleshooting,” where x is any application that requires installation? “Web sites” FTW? But Skype is an application that requires installation, not a “web site,” so you seem to be arguing against yourself.

    If anything you seem to be saying that an application has to have a lot of value in order to stay installed on your PC… but I’m not sure you can logically get to “Why Microsoft Live Mesh will fail” from there…

    I don’t get Joel’s Spolsky’s post, either, and normally he’s a good writer. It’s a rant about how he doesn’t want a “1955 Salisbury steak” and yet it’s served to him over and over and over. He’s apparently looking for a Lean Cuisine featuring “lightly braised veal medallions in a white wine reduction,” but last time I looked, Stouffer’s was selling a hell of a lot of Salisbury steak, so somebody must want it. :-)

    I know a lot of people — not necessarily early adopters — who have banged their heads against the problem of using iTunes with multiple PCs and multiple devices.

    - Someone has their music library at home, but not at work.
    - Someone wants to rent a movie at work and have it show up at home.
    - Someone wants to move their library from one PC to another.
    - Someone wants to back up their library but not spend a sunny Saturday afternoon shuffling blank DVD-Rs into their PC. etc.

    Live Mesh at least has the potential to make those problems completely go away.

    Ironically, simple synchronization was one huge reason for the success of iTunes. You just plug in your device, boom, it’s synched. You didn’t need to worry about resolving update conflicts or whether you wanted to replace older versions, etc. — it just worked. It was FAR easier than Windows Media, and by the time Microsoft figured it out and came out with Zune, it was too late.

    If Live Mesh gave people enough space to upload their iTunes libraries, there would be massive adoption on that one application alone. You could rent a movie at work and it would be waiting for you by the time you got home and microwaved your Salisbury steak dinner.

    Why was Blackberry a success? Same thing, simple synchronization. All your email everywhere at the same time.

    Why is the iPhone going to drive sales of Microsoft Exchange and vice versa? Instant push email with your mail, contacts and calendar all synchronized.

    Now, imagine you take a photo with your camera. Your camera automatically puts the picture in your Mesh Pictures folder. Joel says people like Picasa, people like Flickr — maybe there’s an app that automatically runs and uploads your new pictures to Picasa and Flickr and your blog, without you having to do a thing. Or maybe people just have an RSS feed into your Mesh Pictures folder, so they don’t use the web apps anymore…

    Repeat with contacts, calendar items, email messages, browsing history, bookmarks, wish lists, stuff you bought… you can see where this is going….

    What they’re trying to do is admirable. Whether they will succeed or fail is probably more of a function of how well Live Mesh works — do they give you enough space? Does it cost too much? Does it bog down your PC? Is it too hard to use? etc.

    It won’t just “fail” simply because it requires installation. And it won’t fail because some early adopters are “serious Mac fans” who feel defiled whenever they have to touch a Microsoft product.

  13. Aww, Robert. What happened? Your friends in the Valley tell you that saying nice things about Live Mesh was bad because saying something good about Microsoft would keep you from sitting at the cool kids’ table?

    Seriously, early adopters use Mac? Joel understands Live Mesh?

    Maybe you spent too much time doing the wine tour.

  14. Aww, Robert. What happened? Your friends in the Valley tell you that saying nice things about Live Mesh was bad because saying something good about Microsoft would keep you from sitting at the cool kids’ table?

    Seriously, early adopters use Mac? Joel understands Live Mesh?

    Maybe you spent too much time doing the wine tour.

  15. In some regards I understand what Joel and Robert are saying, but the bottom-line is, Microsoft has always been about platforms. Yes they build applications but most of their applications are built with a way to programmatically interact with them. This includes the Zune and 360 (via XNA).

    So when I see the current Mesh app, yes it is limited (currently I’m largely using it sync music and remote between my machines), but the architecture does tell a different story. Is it overblown as Joel says … can’t say because the SDK isn’t out and I haven’t played with it. Nor has Microsoft really talked about what applications they are building to make use of it. But it is clear that Mesh is meant to be a platform and if built correctly can be extremely powerful. Potentially more poweful than Google Gears (and certainly more stable … offline Google apps are a bit of a joke at the moment).

    I’ll will fully pass judgement once I can a) see the SDK, and b) see what else MS is doing with it.

  16. In some regards I understand what Joel and Robert are saying, but the bottom-line is, Microsoft has always been about platforms. Yes they build applications but most of their applications are built with a way to programmatically interact with them. This includes the Zune and 360 (via XNA).

    So when I see the current Mesh app, yes it is limited (currently I’m largely using it sync music and remote between my machines), but the architecture does tell a different story. Is it overblown as Joel says … can’t say because the SDK isn’t out and I haven’t played with it. Nor has Microsoft really talked about what applications they are building to make use of it. But it is clear that Mesh is meant to be a platform and if built correctly can be extremely powerful. Potentially more poweful than Google Gears (and certainly more stable … offline Google apps are a bit of a joke at the moment).

    I’ll will fully pass judgement once I can a) see the SDK, and b) see what else MS is doing with it.

  17. Mark: yeah, yeah, I know. I have a Mac too. Most of the early adopter types are on Macs for just these reasons. Go visit a Gnomedex Conference to see just how many are on Macs.

    Funny, though, if you get it working right Skype Video on Windows runs faster frame rates than Skype on Macs.

  18. Mark: yeah, yeah, I know. I have a Mac too. Most of the early adopter types are on Macs for just these reasons. Go visit a Gnomedex Conference to see just how many are on Macs.

    Funny, though, if you get it working right Skype Video on Windows runs faster frame rates than Skype on Macs.

  19. You know, Robert, you wouldn’t have those weird application interactions if you were using a Mac. Skype is a pretty crappy and flaky app, but it doesn’t have any problems with other apps on Mac OS X. A proper OS doesn’t let apps interfere with each other.

    As for Mesh, OS integration might help its adoption on the Windows side, but will never help on the Mac side, where we already have .Mac, and it works great for the few things anyone uses it for.

    The lack of .Mac for Windows is a little frustrating on the rare occasions that I have to touch Windows: I go to a Windows box, log into mac.com, go to my iDisk, grab my bookmarks (auto-synced every day) from Library/Application Support/Bookmarks, and import them into Safari for Windows. Worst of all, Windows doesn’t have Applescript (and I’m not stupid enough to write VB), so I can’t script this task like I could on a Mac.

    .Mac for Windows would help, but Mesh for Mac would be more trouble than the current process.

    There are much larger examples than just syncing bookmarks, of course, but that’s a good “Hello, World” application. If Mesh isn’t usable for that, it won’t be of use for anything larger.

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