Microsoft's Live Mesh gives me that synching feeling

Here's a bizarre one: Microsoft yesterday pitched itself as the free, open alternative to Apple when it announced a new synchronisation service called

Here's a bizarre one: Microsoft yesterday pitched itself as the free, open alternative to Apple when it announced a new synchronisation service called Live Mesh.

Live Mesh allows your computer to seamlessly share data with web-connected devices (from smartphones and laptops to digital photoframes). It also provides an easy way to remotely access devices on your mesh. And unlike most Microsoft technologies, Live Mesh is built to be open. While the current closed beta only works with Windows devices, Mac (and other platform) support is in the pipeline.

Most commentators have said this pitches Microsoft against Google, taking the next logical step from the brilliant web-hosted Google Docs.

I'm a long time .Mac user, and I find the service incredibly useful for synchronising calendar and contacts information, and for creating quick online photo and video galleries. The iDisk online storage part of the equation doesn't work so well as it's slow and firewall-sensitive, so I can't keep a local copy of my files here at work - which is no doubt a problem that Microsoft will face, too.

But crucially, .Mac costs £70 a year. And it only works (properly) on Macs. If Microsoft can truly offer a similar service that's free and works across platforms, then it's onto a winner.

It's a big 'if'.  Apple originally launched .Mac (aka iTools) as a free service, too. It soon became clear that the money didn't stack up. Even a cash-rich megacorp like Microsoft is going to have to work out some way to make money from Live Mesh.

And as for platform neutrality... well, some of it works. Unfortunately the remote access part of the Live Mesh equation uses the ActiveX controls only found in Internet Explorer on Windows.

Mark this one: wait and see. We'll have a full review once we work out how to sneak into this beta programme...

Visit the Live Mesh site

My review of iLife & .Mac