More is Less

As I’ve alluded to in the past, I am of the opinion that Microsoft uses the shotgun approach with their products a little too much and the result is too often confusion.  In one of my previous posts about MS’s confusing offerings I described a few of these “similar product shotgunnings”, and mentioned Live Mesh and Skydrive as specific examples.  I should have included a few more into that mix…

– Windows Live Sync is not new to the party and should have received a mention in my previous post.  It used to be Folder Share (a useful utility that I would use to sync audio recording files between computers) but was recently changed to Live Sync to better fit in with the rest of the Live family of products.

– SyncToy is also not a new product, nor has it changed names recently, but it too is another file syncing/backup offering from MS.

– Microsoft MyPhone…very much a niche product, but still has file sync/backup capabilities.

So, here we are…Microsoft has given me not one, not two…not three…not four…but five file syncing utilities.  Each one is unique, each one has overlap.  Each one is maddeningly insufficient on its own.  I am forced to use at least two of these, probably three, to take care of the different file syncing needs I have.  Here’s what each one does:

1. Live Mesh – In my opinion, Live Mesh is the most capable and promising of the products.  Remote Desktop is great.  Mobile integration is very promising 

Pros: Cons:
-5GB of online storage -Only 5GB of online storage
-Online Desktop Interface -My experience is that the mobile client seems to crash a decent amount
-Syncable files/folders between each device added to mesh -10MB file size limit for mobile client
-Mobile device integration  
-Web-based Remote Desktop  
-Online photo viewer (great, but a bit slow)  

2. Skydrive – 25GB…free…need I say more?  No…but I will… 

Pros: Cons:
-25GB of online storage -50MB file upload limit (limits usage with video files)
-Shareable with others -Purely online (Can’t map as Network Drive)
  -No mobile client

3. Live Sync– Great for syncing files across multiple computers within or outside of your home network.

Pros: Cons:
-Sync up to 20 folders of 20,000 files each -No mobile client or syncing capability
-4GB file size limitation  
-Shareable with others  

4. SyncToy– Pretty similar to Live Sync… 

Pros: Cons:
-Not installable…syncs folders within your network, on other computers or external drives -Scheduled backup not organic…has to be scheduled within Windows which is not all that straightforward.

5. MyPhone – Mobile-centric.  Awesome for backing up text messages.

Pros: Cons:
-Again…text message backup is great -Miserable 200MB limit..for pics, vids, songs…only 200MB?  Really?  I have an 8GB microSDHC card in my phone…200MB doesn’t help me.
-Easy setup -Calendar, Contacts  and tasks backup is cumbersome on the desktop/web side.  I’ve had it inadvertently overwrite items on my phone, too.
  -Would be great if this had some sort of Outlook integration without Exchange.
  -Overall, the web client is pretty atrocious.  Doesn’t much look like a MS site even.

Each one of these products leaves me needing one of the other products to pick up the slack…or makes me look elsewhere for a better product.  Case in point, I use Google Sync to sync my Calendar and Contacts with Gmail and Google Calendar.  The only thing missing there is Tasks, but it beats anything MS is offering for my Windows Mobile device.

So, let me just say what I would like to see from MS in the area of file syncing, sharing and backup.  Who knows…maybe this is all in the works already.  I just think the confusion tactics in the meantime aren’t helping.  So, here it is, MS…my wish list:

-At least 25GB of online storage.
-No less than 4GB/file limit
-Web client with a built-in file viewer, ala Live Mesh but better…with Office Live Workspace integration that allows me to actually view Office files online.  (Think Google Docs, but better)
-Mobile client that allows two-way sync of all photos, video and text messages and syncs my calendar, contacts and tasks with Outlook on my home computer and Office Live.
-Internal, and external syncing and sharing across computers and drives without limitation.  Built-in scheduling.
-Oh, and keep all of the “Pros” from above.

Is that too much to ask?  I’m open to hearing that I’m expecting too much here but I honestly don’t think I am.  Could we even just try to trim this list down to two, more capable products?  Maybe one geared towards the mobile users and one that’s more desktop-centric?  Ok, my monthly MS rant is now done.  I’ll wait expectantly for them to jump all over this…yeah…

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