Dropbox vs Windows Live Mesh: I Can Answer That Question

Paul Thurrott, one of my favorite tech bloggers, asks why someone would use Dropbox over… wait for it… Windows Live Mesh.


Let me try to stop laughing long enough to answer that question.

OK, I think I’m OK now.  Here goes.

One, Microsoft does a horrible job of marketing its apps.  It may have the greatest set of apps on earth, but it can’t even figure out what to call them, much less how to effectively communicate to people what they do and why they are awesome.  Seriously, I am a long time Microsoft user and TechNet subscriber, and I don’t even know what Live Mesh (what a stupid, stupid name) is.  I think it’s the (God knows how many times) renamed FolderShare app that Microsoft bought back in 2005.  I actually used FolderShare before it became a casualty to Microsoft’s (lack of a) marketing plan.

Two, Microsoft’s non-core apps tend to be very kludgy.  Dropbox may only be a folder on my computer, but it’s a folder that I can access with a click of an icon, and easily drag items into.  Sharing is as easy as a right click.  As far as I know, there is no way to mount Sky Drive as a folder on my computer, in the absence of Gladinet or some third party work-around.  Even when Microsoft adds features that compare favorably with other offerings, like the ability to sync multiple folders and more space, it generally trips over itself in some way- like the fact that you can’t access Sky Drive via Live Mesh.  Or the fact that you need two separate apps in the first place.  Between the ever-changing (and ridiculous) names and the (real or perceived) learning curve, many people will choose the ease of Dropbox.

Which is sort of too bad, because the battle for the cloud is wide open.

I agree with Ed Bott that the latest Dropbox security breach is a big deal.  I’m a believer in the cloud, but every day I see more and more evidence that the cloud is still being formed, and no one has adequate security in place.  I also agree that scale matters in the cloud.  I would trust Amazon or Microsoft to keep my data safer than Dropbox.  But I’m not willing to spend hours trying to figure out how to mesh (pun intended) Microsoft’s products into a workable solution.  And if I feel that way as a tech blogger and geek, how do you think the typical internet user feels?

The fact is that you install Dropbox and you’re done.  To replicate that with Microsoft either is or seems like (it really doesn’t matter which) the equivalent of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  It might be beautiful, but few people have the time and patience to tackle it.

I have no doubt that for someone like Ed or Paul, who are very learned in tech in general and Microsoft in particular, the Windows mesh/mess of apps, when placed in the right order, is a fine, and maybe even preferable, solution.

Meanwhile, the rest of us go on living our lives, using Dropbox and hoping that Dropbox gets its security ducks in a row, so we don’t have to go try to figure out what Microsoft’s apps are called that day, and how they work.

13 thoughts on “Dropbox vs Windows Live Mesh: I Can Answer That Question

  1. sure, but what about the new dropbox’s conditions of use (starting july 14th) as they are the owner of your data and can do whatever they want to do with them ?
    (Ideleted my dropbox account yesterday because of that)

  2. Do the Live Mesh terms say that they can sell or do what ever they want with the stuff you put on their cloud?

    If not, that would be one reason to use Live Mesh over Dropbox. 

  3. windows live mesh wins. it syncs my files in the background to a backup in the cloud and also syncs between my main pc and netbook, keeping all my active files up to date without me noticing. brilliant – takes 15mins to set up which folders to sync and you’re off. been using since it was beta, still no problems yet
    don’t even need to click to open a file or drag anything anywhere – its seamless and in the backgroung

  4. As a tech-blogger and geek, you don’t have to have a default negative bias toward Microsoft. Isn’t that a bit “1995ish”?

    Live Mesh and Dropbox are ok ideas, but aren’t they sort of a crutch for people holding back from moving to the cloud? Having the docs local on many devices is OK, but just having them available on a cloud-based share that’s accessible from any device is sufficient. Office 2010’s ability to simply save documents to a SkyDrive is a great first step; then, on any PC using office, I can open my document. Changes are synced to the doc in SkyDrive. No need to sync it to both devices locally.

  5. I really don’t have a bias against MSFT.  I just get irritated at them because I feel like they have a scatter-brained marketing plan.  They need to make it super easy to use this stuff, and then explain it in a super easy manner.  What they have works, once you slag through the set up process, but the money is with the non-geek users, and most non-geek users aren’t going to go to all the (real or perceived) effort of getting all the MSFT parts in place.  The good news for MSFT is that it doesn’t look like iCloud is going to knock people’s socks off either.

  6. I have been a long time user of Dropbox (Cancelled now due to the security breach and the thought that they own my data) and I liked the service.  When Microsoft came out with their first version of Mesh I agree it was clunky at best, however since the transition to the new 2011 Live Mail I found the service easy to setup, and offered a few other things like remote control and syncing favorites which are just a bonus, though i dont use those service’s its an interesting add-in. I do agree that there should be a little more synergy between Skydrive and Mesh but the system does work. 

    To Andrews comment about moving files hosted solely in the cloud.  I agree with you, but i do know from having had to setup some “Road Warrior” sales people that don’t want to pay for airline Wi-Fi that they need to have their files on their laptops.  In this case a cloud store isn’t ideal. The question arose “What if i forget to grab the file off my cloud store before i jump on the plane?” This is probably the exception and not the rule as our ability to stay connected seems to increase daily, but I do believe there is a place for file syncing vs cloud hosted files only.

    I personally went to a hosted file system so I could make the transition from laptop/netbook to my Asus Transformer.  I did a 30 day test to see if i could conduct all my out of office business without the need for a full MS system and the surprising answer was yes. I do still have to copy some files to my transformer if I want to work on the plane when travelling but that for me isn’t a big deal.

    Anyway just my 2 cents

  7. I am shocked at how many people think Live Mesh is better!

    Drop Box, SugarSync and others are so much better. 

    First off you can use all of your storage on the other solutions for Syncing, not the 5gig of your Sky Drive account.  Why cant you use the whole SkyDrive?

    Size limit of a file….seriously WTF is the reason for that on Mesh/SkyDrive

    Access from any web browser to the Mesh stuff….is it even possible?  I cant find it.  On the others it is stupid simple.

    Mobile Access…..nice apps for iPhone, iPad, Android.

    You are so right about Microsoft not being able to market their stuff.

    Just call it SkyDrive forget the mesh part, let all of it be avalible, not just 5gig, give easy full web access to it (mesh seems hidden on the web).  Remove the file limit or up it to 1gig.  Get mobile apps for the most popular devices.  An iPad apps seems like a no brainer.

  8. Yeah, that’s great if you only use Office.  What about a video editor that is editing HD movies?  Until the applications are in the cloud, the files can never fully be in the cloud either. File syncing is the only viable solution for many people that want more than just docs and photos.

  9. Hi All, just to let you know I was using Apple’s iDisk, and because the service is going offline in june, looking for an alternative. Dropbox is of course the most well known. However, reading many articles on the net, including the above, I did choose for Microsoft’s solution. I do not really have an argument other than free storage size in the cloud, but looking at all other arguments (like security, ease of use, and so on) to me the only thing that matters is that it works without having to think about it. iDisk did that for me. Drop box will do that and Microsoft Mesh will do it. So only thing left is choosing size. Security is an issue, but anything that one would put on a cloud service is subject to vulnerability anyway. So do not store confidential info on there anyway and you’re fine. Or am I loosing sight of some very important reason to choose something different?

  10. Pretty unbelieveable. Let’s get past the fact that I can use Mesh to sychronize ALL of my stuff between computers (home/work) . . . that’s right, kids, ALL of my music, ALL of my documents, ALL of my pictures, ALL of my videos, ALL of my favorites, ALL of my office customizations, ALL of my Desktop items, yeah, I think you get it. I can even make a folder in my documents directory, call it dropbox, and sync my new “dropbox” folder across devices . . . but I get 5GB for free, you only get 2GB.
    The learning curve? I figured it out during the commercials. That great big link in the Mesh interface inviting me to “Sync a folder” was pretty confusing at first, but I’m a PC guy so I took the next step and clicked it. M$ Windoze rules!

  11. I think the operative word in your entire post is “stupid.” Yeah, people like you NEED dropbox.
    It’s called Windows Live. They put it in with Vista and everyone complained, so they took it out with Win7 and left it to users to investigate . . . research . . . read . . . learn.
    It’ll be all in your face with Windows 8, so don’t fret. Tap, tap, wow!

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