First Impressions – Windows Live Mesh (Tech Preview)

July 30, 2008

Well, it sure looks sexy ;o)

I like a good UI, and the folks working on Mesh have done a very good job of raising the bar for web apps.  This is still in tech preview, so there are some little pre-load things going on that you see, and it’s a little slow, but it’s looking really sharp.

You can’t actually do much yet, but I can see all kinds of interesting applications being built on this platform.

There are a few buggy things…the installer pops up behind other windows for me, so the security request didn’t get seen right away (I thought it had hung).

There are some things that aren’t quite what I thought they’d be.  For instance, I added a folder on my Mesh desktop (Meshtop? …sure, sounds good) and it immediately appeared on my laptop’s desktop (I had already added my laptop as a device).  I proceeded to open the folder and paste a photo in it, then I eagerly zoomed over to my…uh…Meshtop to see my picture magically appear.

No love.

How it handled what I did next, I’m not quite clear.

So, I went in to my Meshtop folder and then clicked the link to upload a file.  At the prompt, I actually selected my desktop folder (the one with the spanky Mesh icon that I assumed was a sync folder) and picked the photo I had pasted in locally.

It uploaded the file, or it appeared to have uploaded the file, but I couldn’t view it on Mesh by double clicking (I got a popup warning by IE, which, when I allowed popups and refreshed, appeared again briefly then vanished).

Closing Mesh and loading it back up, I went into my folder and double-clicked the image.  A groovy, if not basic, media viewer presented itself and the photo loaded.

A couple of things worth mentioning:

  1. First, when a folder is in icon view, the icons don’t behave how we’ve been taught to believe they would.  When I try to drag a file to the Meshtop it seems to just highlight the page, so evidently they do not have drag-and-drop implemented yet.  Thinking through that, with devices, wireless connectivity and files, there are some really neat things you could do there.  Hey, why not drag a photo from my phone to my work computer?  Cool.  I hope they implement these things.
  2. Secondly, the media viewer is fairly primitive, and I know it’s in tech preview here, but they have a long way to catch up to even some of the blogs that are out there for viewing large photos online.  I expect this to come.  Meanwhile, they’ve developed some clever gadgets to make moving through various media easier including a thumbnail viewer at the top of the folder.  Very nice, even a little hover animation for effect.
  3. There is still a lot of flickering going on, but I imagine this is just because of the early stages of the UI.  Uh…yeah, and when I say early stages, please keep that in context.  They have already put in place a multi-computer desktop management and file sync platform, so while an infant, it plays like a big boy.  Mesh will be a beast when it grows up.
  4. I really enjoy the way that news is tied to folders and items.  This is the Facebook of your desktop, and it has really interesting uses.  If you used Facebook back before it became application-infested, you’ll remember how important the feed was as part of the user experience.  Not only do they implement this on the Meshtop, but there is also deep shell integration that denotes changes, updates and additions to folders as they occur in your mesh. 

While I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, I’ve installed the plugin and will be playing with the remote desktop bits.  I think this is an interesting spin, especially if it allows for cross-platform remoting.  MS has done a great job with remote desktop, especially in the last few versions, and I can’t see this being a step backwards.

I’m going to see what’s available for developers to poke around in and maybe even have a try at something in the SDK if it’s available; perhaps that will give me a little insight on where things are at and going with Mesh.

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