Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Apple’s iCloud Shows How Microsoft’s Vision and Execution Have Again Failed to Mesh

I’ve written before about technology shifts that Microsoft has been early to identify but then utterly failed to capitalize on.

For instance, with Project Origami, it was Microsoft — not Apple — that presaged the coming of a cheap, touch-centric tablet with all-day battery life. But, as we all know, the iPad hails from Cupertino, not Redmond.

With last week’s announcement of iCloud, we may be on the verge of seeing history repeat itself.

For years, Microsoft, under Ray Ozzie, has been on about the opportunity of merging software with the cloud. In particular, Ozzie’s team laid the groundwork for Live Mesh, a software service designed to keep documents in sync, in the cloud and on devices.

But after a quick start out of the gate when it was launched back in 2008, Mesh has been at best running in place for the past several years. It has gone through name changes, feature changes and switched places in the Microsoft organization. Yet, it remains limited by its caveats and complexity.

While Google touted its cloud-only approach with Docs and Microsoft allowed Mesh to stagnate, Apple flew largely under the radar. It took baby steps of its own, mainly with a little-known product called iDisk that allowed documents to be saved to the cloud. Like Mesh, it was limited and cumbersome. But Apple has clearly learned from its mistakes.

Has Microsoft?

To be fair, we don’t totally know the answer to this. There are indications that there will be greater cloud integration in the upcoming Mango version of Windows Phone and little is known of Windows 8, beyond ARM chip support and the new interface shown at D9.

What we do know is what Apple is pledging to deliver this fall: a service that synchronizes all one’s documents, wherever they are saved and on PCs, Macs and mobile devices — at least the mobile ones with an Apple logo. By contrast, Microsoft’s Mesh remains a work in progress, and one where users still have to actively decide which files and folders they want to keep in sync.

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