I started off writing this post on the train, as the stacation (taking a break from work but staying at home) part of last week became the vacation part (a few days by the seaside with my wife and sons – the fact that I woke up to snow in Buckinghamshire didn’t seem to put the boys off wanting to build sandcastles in Dorset… even with their winter coats on).
The point of this is that I wanted to use the time on the train to good effect – and that meant catching up on my writing. Despite having spent a few days decommissioning my old file server in favour of a new NAS box, I still have a certain amount of local data that I need to access – spread across multiple Windows and Macintosh PCs. This is where Microsoft’s web services platform comes in. I’ve been using the Live Mesh CTP for a while now, but the current version of Mesh is just a starting point and there is another Live service in beta that I’m using here – Windows Live FolderShare.
FolderShare is a web service for distributed folders across multiple devices – either personal or shared folders. If you’ve used Windows Live SkyDrive as file storage in the cloud, then imagine if that data was hosted on your PCs (phones, and other devices) rather than in cyberspace – and replicated automatically.
Over time, I expect to see FolderShare move into Live Mesh and, in my coverage of the recent PDC keynote, I wrote about how:
Live Mesh bridges [islands of information] with a core synchronisation concept but Mesh is just the tip of the iceberg and is now a key component of Live Services to allow apps and websites to connect users, devices, applications and to provide data synchronisation.
My personal file data may not be the scale of enterprise service Microsoft plans for Windows Azure but Windows Live FolderShare does nicely demonstrate the concept in a way that most of us can appreciate. Here I am, creating content on the train using my Macintosh PC and I know that, when I hook up to a network, FolderShare will sync this (via Windows Live Services) to people/devices that I want to share the data with – for example my Windows PC in the home office. Then, whichever device I’m using, I can continue my work without worrying about where the master copy is. Add a phone into the mix and one would expect me to be able to access that data wherever I am as well as creating additional content – for example photos, or location specific data.
Jasdev Dhaliwal has an interesting article about Microsoft’s cloud computing announcements over at the Web Pitch. Jas’ post includes: Microsoft’s “Overnight Success” video which talks about the greater sum of software plus services “moving beyond devices and across borders to capture the imagination of the world… a world where the richness of software and the ubiquity of services are rapidly converging”; a BBC interview with Ray Ozzie where he talks about how it has become burdensome to manage the computer we’ve got at work, the computer we have in the den, childrens’ PCs, a cellphone with contacts, photos and information, cable boxes with recorded movies and how “Windows in the sky” can bring all of those devices together and make it easier to manage – more than just applications in the cloud but a total computing infrastructure; another BBC film where Rory Cellan-Jones visits one of Microsoft’s vast datacentres; and finally Microsoft’s “Synchronizing Life” video where a Mum takes a picture of a child at play using her mobile phone and that picture appears on a display many miles away in Dad’s office, on his PC, on his Mac, and how the Live Mesh extends to his media player, phone, into the car and to the childrens’ games console.
I started this post on the train, using a Mac. Now I’m ending it in the office, on a Windows PC – and I haven’t had to think about which copy of the data is current – it just works. That’s what connected synchronicity is about – it’s not about uploading everything I do to some website but about a mesh of devices working together to make my local data available globally… synchronising my life.