Microsoft has some cool products hiding behind ridiculously confusing names. Users of the very nifty Live Mesh file and desktop syncing beta, for example, were told their service shuts down in March 2011. Where should they migrate? Windows Live Mesh, of course.
Microsoft is emailing Live Mesh beta users and explaining how they can transition their files to Windows Live Mesh. It involves not a small bit of reconfiguring the folders you want to sync, the settings you'd like for each synced folders, and waiting while your folders all move over to the new Windows Live Mesh servers.
If that was the only hiccup in an upgrade, that would be minor, if annoying. Windows Live Mesh certainly looks intriguing, using 5GB of your 25GB of free SkyDrive space for file syncing, working on Windows and Mac systems, offering syncing of settings for Internet Explorer and Office apps, and continuing the fairly seamless and easy to setup remote desktop function we loved in the original.
But it's the naming, and duality of names, that puts people off — people including your Lifehacker editors, if I do presume to speak for most of us. The fact that somebody pulled the trigger on a mass user email trying to say, essentially, "Live Mesh is dead, so use Windows Live Mesh" is pretty befuddling. To then require that users pull off what amounts to a manual transition of folders they wanted to set-and-forget for syncing is just icing on the cake.
There's certainly an ecosystem building behind the Windows Live brand. SkyDrive is the storage hub, Hotmail is the messaging centre, the Windows Live Essentials apps are the desktop components, and the continually popular Windows Live Messenger (once MSN Messenger) is the live message component that ties into a surprising number of these elements. But keeping the legacy names and requiring that "Windows" be tacked before each product is a big part of what makes it all feel so loosely amalgamated
"Windows Live Hotmail" sounds just plain awkward, with three adjectives tacked onto your email service. Very few people aren't going to notice the built-in cultural clash of installing "Windows Live Mesh" on your Mac. SkyDrive was, to be sure, likely an expensive URL to grab from the squatters and patent trolls, but why not simply label your 25 GB of free online storage largess as "Live Drive"? Bundling together the Movie Maker, blog-focused Writer, photo Gallery, and other desktop apps into one big "Live Essentials" bundle was a smart move, and one that freed up the Windows 7 desktop, and one that Apple does likewise with its iLife apps. But to get people interested in Live Essentials, there needs to be a clearer explanation of how these apps tie into the larger Live ecosystem. Just "Live", that is — after a few minutes, any user will get that it's a Windows-focused ecosystem.
Ahem .. Windows Live Mesh is a free service, and a free (if fiddly) upgrade for Live Mesh Beta users. You are, as ever, free to let us know what you think of Live Mesh, and this rare bit of spontaneous opinion, in the comments.
Windows Live Mesh and Devices Help Center [Microsoft]
Windows Live Mesh 2011 [Microsoft]