Windows Barely Live Mesh and Why TechCrunch Needs a New Tab

Steve Gillmor redefined TechCrunch today with a thoughtful but loooong (1709 words!) post on Windows Live Mesh. Others come to rescue translating him:

Robert Scoble: But, let’s translate Gillmor: Microsoft Mesh is fascinating. Agreed.

Phil Wainewright: Steve turns that around and points out that what Mesh is really about is connecting the desktop into the cloud

Mike Arrington: I’m pretty sure he’s saying Mesh = good.

Even Microsoft’s Steve Clayton is lost:

I got lost about two thirds of the way in to this post from Steve Gillmor but the first third was a great read. Actually the whole thing was but I just got a bit lost as I think some of the things going on in Steve’s fast thinking brain didn’t quite make it through to the keyboard so you’re left having to assume some things. I’m assuming he likes Mesh though. I think he does.

Commenters on TechCrunch were ruthless, I won’t even begin quoting them. But don’t get me wrong: this is a good article, which would have been a great fit for ReadWriteWeb, but the TC crowd expects short, to-the-point, fairly descriptive posts. In the words of TC owner Mike Arrington:

Steve is an acquired taste. his writing isn’t efficiently packaged into bite sized chunks like a lot of people have come to expect. but if you decide to give it the attention it needs, you may find that you come away a little bit smarter after you’re finished.

Yes. And perhaps Mike is trying to redefine TC’s style himself. But you have to know your readers, Mike – perhaps a a new tab for Essays would be appropriate – or if you want Gillmor’s writing part of the main flow, a graphical “grab a coffee this is a long one” icon would help.

Now, on to the bigger question, why Live Mesh is just Barely Live. (And yes, this will be a long post, too, but due to the screenprints.)

The first leaked news declared this a solution to “sync everything with everything”. Then came Amit Mital, Live Mesh General Manager with a visionary video and announcement at the Web 2.0 Expo last week, adding towards the end: initially it will sync only Windows PC’s, adding more platforms and devices over time. Ahh! So it’s a … Foldershare for now.

Minutes after the presentation I was chatting with a startup CEO who reminded me he had seen a similar video from Microsoft years ago: kid playing, Mom capturing video on cell-phone, family watching it almost real-time on various devices, executive-type Dad watching video on his laptop at an airport feeling “almost at home”. Great video, and yes, it was conceptually familiar, but what has materialized of it?

Live Mesh will be great when it really happens, but for now it’s largely waporware: pre-announcement, typical Microsoft-style. And now, if you’re still here, why don’t you follow me through the hoops of trying to sign up for (Barely) Live Mesh.

Google Search and several Microsoft blogs point to so that’s where we start:

Hm… I could never figure out why I so often get signed out of Live Network (good old passport style), and if that’s the case why can I not sign back here. But that’s OK, we just take a detour to, sign in and come back to

I though I had just signed in, but fine, let’s do it again. Oops:

The sign-in button changes to sign up – as in sign up for a waiting list. Not fun.. but let’s do it anyway. Btw, before the wait-list screen there was another screen where I had to agree to some terms – sort of usual for actually using a service, but for getting on a waiting list?

Now we’re in something called Microsoft Connect. Is this the same thing? Who knows…let’s click Register (but why, after sign-up, sign-in, agree, now register? WTF?)

I’m starting to really not like this. So far I’ve been presented with a maze of registration, confirmation, you-name-it screens, and I don’t know where the hell I am. Let’s backtrack a bit.

Oh, several screens above, at the waiting list signup, it stated on the next screen I should click Connection Directory, a small option on the top, not the main Register for Connect link… but who reads small prints, all screens should offer enough navigational clues to not get me lost. OK, redoing, now…

This jungle is the Connection Directory. No sign of Live Mesh, at least not on the first page. Text search to the rescue: there we are… somewhere towards the bottom (scroll way down) there is Live Mesh Tech Preview! Voila! (or not). The button to click is Apply Now! As if I hadn’t done it a zillion times already…

Hm.. I can do this now with my eyes closed… click..

Geez, this looks like a plain old BS signup form again. I’ve had it. Done. I let others experiment with Microsoft’s Windows Dead Mesh. Let me know when it’s Live. For real.