Disclaimer: what follows in this post is my personal opinion. It may or may not be consistent with Microsoft product strategy...
Last week, Microsoft took the covers off of the Live Mesh Platform. There are some nice summary articles over on LiveSide.net. As I've gotten familiar with it, I have come to realize that the Mesh desktop and file synchronization features address most of my nagging concerns with Groove. Those were:
- I don't like moving file into and out of Groove workspaces. I want integration at the Windows shell level (IOW, File Open, File Save dialogs should be able to see and directly manipulate all of my files). Groove "kind of" had this in the 2007 release with the "Groove Folder Synchronization" feature - but that feature seemed to compete with regular Groove workspaces. Mesh folders gets the integration done right at the file system/Windows Explorer level, and gets rid of the competition by having only one way to do it.
- I always found the Groove account/identity mechanism to be cumbersome and redundant. In addition to being a pain for me, it also presented a serious impediment to "Grooving" with others. The whole process of obtaining and provisioning a Groove ID was too difficult. More than once after recruiting a work associate to think about using Groove for collaboration those good intentions would die on the thorns of this complexity, and it would fall back to "I'll just email the damn file to you." Mesh addresses this by basing identity on Windows Live ID. There is still a setup process here, but many people have been through it long ago and for other reasons, so this barrier is much less frequently encountered.
- Related to the previous point, Groove IM/Chat is a bizarro universe in competition with "normal" MSN Messenger and OCS interactions. Now that everything is based on Windows Live ID, the redundant features can go away.
- Files stored in the Groove workspace are essentially imprisoned and inaccessible to Windows Desktop Search. Because of the change I explain in point 1, this problem goes away.
- If I want "access my files anywhere", I have to plan for it. I have to figure out where I am going to be and ensure that I have the workspace that contains those files replicated on a computer at that location. Now with one copy of a Mesh folder "in the cloud", I don't have to plan ahead - I just need a web browser.
Oh, and the "more" part - for now that's the mainly the "remote desktop through the firewall" feature, but I'm looking forward to exploring the API and to see what ISVs who build on the platform will bring.