Live Mesh was introduced yesterday by Microsoft. It is the brain child of Ray Ozzie and really seems like an out-growth of the work he did with Groove. At its simplest, Live Mesh is basic file sync. But another way to think about Live Mesh is as the ultimate P2P platform. When people think of P2P they think about Kazaa, Napster etc where everyone’s files are available to everyone else. Live Mesh is different from vanilla P2P because it adds the following:
- control over who sees what files
- creates a personal P2P cloud amongst your own devices (file sync)
- the concept of your own cloud store
- a platform, which will let ISVs build applications on top of it
So what does this mean? Live Mesh has the following implications:
- Cloud storage companies can kiss their businesses good bye because cloud storage is integrated with Live Mesh. Cloud storage is a thin margin business and only those with scale can make it work. After the shake-out likely survivors are MSFT, GOOG and AMZN. I should be clear that there may be still be a lot of 3rd party applications that leverage the infrastructure of the big 3 but if you are doing your own storage thing, you better switch now.
- Sync is a big deal because if done right it has the ability to transform our digital lives. I know that sounds like hyperbole but if you have more than one computer you will likely have blown productivity managing your files. It basically makes computers (and devices) more useful. There is a lot of people playing in this space but by virtue of creating a platform and a standard set of APIs and protocols, MSFT has the chance to win big time.
- MSFT has an advantage over GOOG and AMZN here because they have better distribution (by virtue of their operating system). Additionally, they have been marketing to ISVs for years. Don’t underestimate this. Once Live Mesh is integrated into Visual Studio, any kid with rudimentary Basic skills will be able to build applications on top of the mesh.
- Going back to the P2P angle, Live Mesh can be a content delivery platform. If I were a content company I would start thinking about this right now. Streaming media has economic issues that Live Mesh solves. Microsoft should be out licensing this to every device maker on earth. The consumer electronics companies will be reluctant participants but they should embrace it because it enables them to compete with Apple and frankly they need help in this area. If you look at Ray Ozzie’s memo, he talks about the 3Cs the first being content.
- Social networks are about interaction whether it be IM, posting or sharing. Guess what? Live Mesh addresses posting and sharing and if done right will make it easier. YouTube flourished because it let people embed videos in HTML. Well, Live Mesh can take this to the next level, facilitating what Fred Wilson calls micro chunking.
However, the biggest key to Live Mesh’s success will be how much lock-in is baked into the platform. If all protocols are published and any one can interact with Live Mesh completely at the protocol level and for free, then Live Mesh could be transformative. If the above is not true, the Live Mesh will fail because lock-in does not work on the web.