Sync is Where it’s At: The Cloud as Enabler

These days we kind of now take the ability to sync our various devices for granted, especially us Mac users. However, that wasn’t always the case. When the Palm Pilot came out in 1997 it was revolutionary in that it changed the way we interacted with our electronic devices. No longer did we have to enter our data in two different places, say first on a paper calendar and then enter that same calendar event on our digital assistant. That’s the way it was as hard as it is to believe and possibly remember.

The Palm Pilot changed all that. Now you could enter your contacts, tasks, events and notes on your Palm and using a cable connection to your computer you could sync the computer with your Palm and the two now had the same information. No more dual entries but rather just one entry in one spot or another. It was great.

However, in the very beginning you could only sync these four applications. With time however, more applications came along that sync’d with the Palm and eventually other devices. This though was all proprietary to each vendor be it the Palm or Windows CE.

Sync has come a long way

Sync has come a long way since those days. There have been some rough spots a long the road but we’ve arrived at a new stage or should I say era in sync. In many ways, we can sync so many applications on OSX and IOS. Its wonderful as what we work on say on our desktop can be with us to continue working with on a mobile device.

Sync is where its at

Sync has always been something near and dear to my heart. I’ve been enamored with it from day one. When I say sync is where its at I’ll just draw from this extract to explain how I view it:

From Your Dictionary Idioms

What does “where it’s at” mean?

Also, where the action is. The key center of activity; where important things are happening. For example, He decided to set up his store here, convinced that this is where it’s at, or I’m going into the brokerage business; that’s where the action is these days. The action or activity in this phrase can relate to just about anything—financial, political, social, or commercial. [Slang; c. 1960]

Applications on OSX and IOS

I have one basic tenet these days, having gone through the days when I either had to enter stuff in two places or found myself waiting to get home so I could access that which I couldn’t take with me; applications need run on both OSX and IOS (not necessarily identically but somewhat similarly) and they must sync. With that in mind, I tend to only buy software that meets these criteria.

The Mac was the Center of the Universe

Ten years ago and up until very recently your Mac was the center of the universe. Its where you did the bulk of your work and it was the centre for sync. You either connected a cable to your Mac and sync’d your stuff through iTunes, ActiveSync or WIFI. Activesync unfortunately, although conceptually a great idea in that you no longer needed proprietary software in which everyone had to write specific code to sync but rather they could write for Activesync and it would handle the work of shuffling your data around. In theory, it was great but in reality unfortunately it never worked well and it left many a user pulling his or her hair out,

Along came WIFI which worked much better. In addition, no longer were you tethered directly to your computer but you could sync wirelessly throughout your house on your home WIFI network. This was quite liberating. Yet, I’d say in the course of a couple of years, we’ve come light years from that point to a point in which the next ten years will be quite amazing for a variety of reasons but for the purposes of this article sync.

The Cloud as Enabler

As revolutionary as the Palm Pilot was to sync back in 1997 so too is the cloud today for sync. The cloud has been around for a long time to do a number of things such as share files, store data, retrieve web pages and on it goes to the point that it is now not only delivering our music as it began to back in the early 2000s but its delivering all forms of media content from streaming video, through to TV shows and movies. In fact, you name whatever form of analogue content that existed including the ever historic book and that too is being delivered digitally via the cloud.

However, cloud based sync is a new phenomenon and its wonderful. Rather than your Mac now being the center of the universe it is the cloud. It is liberating us from the tethering effects of cord and home direct connect WIFI. You might still use an Ethernet cord connected to your Mac to get to the cloud or your home based WIFI network but you might as likely use your cellular carriers LTE network to get to the cloud. No matter where you are, as long as you have a network connection, you can get to the cloud to sync your devices. You don’t have to worry about leaving your house without syncing your iPhone. You can be anywhere and connected via WIFI or LTE/3gs, connect to the cloud and seamlessly sync.

Sync used to occur and still does in some cases between your Mac and your IOS devices. Rather than this, sync’g via the cloud is a technique in which your data is sync’d to the cloud from whatever device and sync’d from the cloud by whatever device. Thus, just replace your Mac as the source of your data sync with the cloud. That is, instead of sync’g to and from your Mac with your iPhone or iPad you now sync via the cloud. Your Mac sync’s to the cloud, your iPad does and so too does your iPhone. Now there is no tethering to the Mac. It is no longer the center of the universe at least not in this fashion. Any device will suffice in a cloud based world be it an iPad, iPhone or Mac of some kind. For some, their iPads are in fact replacing their computers. It is not unusual to see just IOS to IOS enabled sync through the cloud. That is, rather than an application being ported to the Mac it only works in IOS but is able to sync between IOS devices.

However, for me its highly unlikely I’ll buy an application that doesn’t reside on both the Mac and IOS. The Mac remains the center of my universe but for entirely different reasons now. I use my iPad all the time and so too my iPhone but my Mac is my workhorse. My iPad is where I like to read and continue my work but i soon return to my Mac. I really don’t like applications that either force me to IOS or force me to my Mac. That is, if an application is only available in IOS I’m forced to IOS and that might be fine for certain things but not generally. Or, if an application isn’t capable on IOS it will force me to the Mac to finish off my work. This can be a productivity killer (well maybe its not that severe but its close).

Different Cloud based Approaches/Services

There are really two major cloud based vendors for cloud sync’g and that’s Apple’s iCloud or Dropbox. There is a third approach though and that is vendor provided cloud based services possibly to enable enhanced functionality in their product. Regardless of method, all that’s important really is that you can sync via the cloud. There are some differences of outcome that result from these approaches but at the end of the day they all accomplish or provide the same benefits. They are all:

  • more reliable
  • provide sync anywhere there’s a network connection
  • true mobility
  • freedom
  • current info at all times
  • increased accuracy

Thus, not only would I recommend that your product run on both OSX and IOS but that it provide sync via the cloud. This is the overall direction and eventually will probably be the only means in which sync is provided. Those that provided sync via WIFI, such as Mariner Software’s MacJournal, are now pushing their users to switch to the cloud for sync.

Often you’ll find that vendors offer you the option of choosing your method of cloud based sync. This is primarily based on your needs and the outcome you require in sync. Certain functionality that can be delivered by one method might be lost using another. Its up to you to choose that which is right for you if the option is provided.

Application Consistency

Finally, as we enter into really what is a new era of mobility, its also important that applications are as consistent as possible between their various platforms. They most definitely cannot be identical due to the different platform constraints or lack thereof but they can have a general consitent feel to them. This reduces what is called friction or the inability to be as productive as is possible. Not only does it reduce the learning curve it also reduces just your operation of each application as you jump between platforms. As the cloud enables this freedom, it is now a no-brainer to move from one device to another without thinking much of it. However, what you don’t want is a dramatic shift in interaction in your application from one device to another as this will impede productivity and in the worst case scenario, as I mentioned earlier, if there is a significant lack of functionality say in the IOS applications that will force you back to your Mac for possibly the simplest of finishing touches thus defeating the benefits of cloud based computing. I’m not saying though that IOS can do what your Mac can do as they are different beasts but it can do a tremendous amount requiring only a certain amount of time where you have to return to the Mac for the final touches so to speak.

I’ll Say it Again: Sync is where its at….

Mobility is the thing these days. The iPhone is a huge hit. The iPad has redefined what computing is all about. This simple, easy to use tablet can go anywhere you go providing little bulk. Mobility has fully arrived. It started years ago with the Palm but it has skyrocketed with IOS. Simply put, to take real advantage of your liberating devices you want them to sync as seamlessly as possible so that the data you work with that enables them is there with you in its most current form. That’s really achieved through the cloud.

You can still sync via cord if you so like or WIFI if the application provides no other method and is critical to what you want and like to do but it has to sync and as transparently as possible. At the end of the day, over the next while and currently to a large degree, the cloud will be and is the best enabler of mobile function. In this scenario, the network finally becomes as was touted many years ago the computer. Your Internet Service Provider will see demand increase dramatically and more so in an upward fashion. Sync both up and down is equally as important unlike watching a movie which is a downstream function. You’ll see networks providing greater capacity on the upload side as the user demands it.

Yet, another shift is occurring but one for the better. Sync of the past via cable or home based WIFI to your Mac was great but no where near tapped the capability the cloud is able to deliver. At the end of the day, you’ll neither be pulling out your hair nor I doubt be longing for the good old days where the Mac was King or to put it another way the center of the universe. As great as it is and will remain, a better way is dawning and its time to tap into it and take as much advantage of it as you can.

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