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July 16, 2008 4:14 PM

Microsoft opens Mesh to public: Free cloud storage, file sync and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

It's still just a tech preview, but the public can start experiencing Microsoft's new Mesh computing services platform today free.

The platform is geared to developers to create all sorts of online services using Mesh components, such as the ability to easily synchronize folders across devices and PC desktops, and receive notifications when people use the files you're sharing.

But for casual users, it could be a cheap and easy way to store and access a set of files from the home, office and remote Web terminals.

There are a lot of online file storage and sharing services that do this sort of thing already, for a range of prices. You can also store and move files and chat about them with free Web mail services, but they're pretty limited for handling big files.

Mesh has more capabilities and you can't beat the price. But you're giving Microsoft a lot of access to your files. You also have to use a Microsoft Live ID to participate in the tech preview, and anyone you want to share files with will also have to have one of the IDs. I wish there was a way to decouple IDs used for services with IDs that Microsoft and other Internet giants will use for ad targeting.

I've been thinking about the Windows Home Server lately and wonder what the relationship will be with Mesh. In some ways Mesh has competing features at a lower price.

The server does more things, like restore computers that crash, but it's basically a hardware-based solution for people who want to synchronize folders on different machines, back up files to a secure location and share files online with friends and family.

Mesh is aimed at a far bigger market -- it's a global services platform, like Hailstorm, and Microsoft's big step toward cloud computing for the masses -- but it also sounds a like killer application for the server.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.