Dropbox: file sync that works, something for Ray Ozzie to think about

It all started when I wanted to get a document onto an iPhone. Apple makes this absurdly difficult, so I installed Dropbox, which does cloud synch of up to 2 GB free, more with subscription, across multiple platforms and devices: Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Android, iPad and soon Blackberry.

I mentioned this on Twitter:

installed dropbox – live mesh but cross-platform and without the hassles?

and got several responses:

Dropbox is brilliant, I sync allsorts with it and use it as main storage on my netbook!

and

love that service, I couldn’t even get live sync to sign in!

and

I just updated my dropbox to the 50GB plan. Now have all my stuff synched across 5 macs/pcs + available on my iPhone.  Amazing

Now, Microsoft’s Live Mesh appeared in April 2008 and was meant to synch files across Windows, Mac and mobile, though the mobile client never really appeared. It has now been replaced by Windows Live Sync. There’s still no mobile support, not even for Windows mobile.

Dropbox launched publicly in September 2008 and now has a team of 28 people according to the About page – including the very capable Adam Gross formerly of Salesforce.com.

It seems to be an example of Microsoft having a good idea but being unable to deliver. The reason I mentioned “without the hassle” in my tweet is that Live Mesh always required a reboot and occasionally caused problems afterwards in my experience. Dropbox did not.

Ray Ozzie is Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect and seemed to be a key driver behind Live Mesh when it was announced. At one time it seemed that the technology might play a fundamental role in Microsoft’s efforts to unite cloud and device.

You can sign up for Dropbox free here.

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2 comments to Dropbox: file sync that works, something for Ray Ozzie to think about

  • Live mesh does not require a reboot at installation and there has been a windows mobile client for a very long time. It is however unclear what will happen to that one in the live sync migration.

    That aside I find it odd that they don’t evolve the service. They now integrate into live sync but dump the live desktop, which I think was a great idea, and also the “sidebar” on explorer whenever you were in a live mesh folder. Adding to that live sync and live mesh won’t even be able to be installed at the same time on the same computer, highly annoying.

    I have said it before in your comments, but live services has alot to prove and need to get down to much shorter and tighter delivery cycles so they actually can innovate. And microsoft needs to get people in the higher exec ranks out of the way and let their real stars, their engineer, do their work.

    How hard would it have been to make live mesh work across all platforms hassle free? I mean really. It should be “super easy” for a company with microsoft’s resources to pull off. But there seems to be an inherent problem with larger companies and getting things done. Computer engineering is a funny business where the productive limit on the amount of people you can involve on a given code base is insanely low. Have more than 10 people working on something usually starts slowing things down, if it gets to the point where 100 working on it, they might very well get less done (of value) than 1 person would.

  • tim

    Niclas

    Thanks for the comments. Good to know that a reboot is not always required, though I think I’ve always needed one. I realise it depends on what files are in use. But the MOE seems a pretty heavyweight add-on.

    Mobile exists but I believe you still need a link with an invitation code, and of course only a subset of Windows Mobile models are supported.

    Live sync is entangled with Live Essentials which doesn’t help.

    I agree with your comments about getting things done. Another factor is that the “mainly for Windows” perspective really gets in the way for something like this which should be cross-platform.

    Tim