We loved you, iSync

by Francois Joseph de Kermadec

Since it was introduced, iSync has been the iTunes of the office world: millions of users entrusted it with precious data, used it on a daily basis and marveled at its ability to leave manufacturer-provided applications in the dust. Sure, iSync had its occasional fits but, all in all, it turned out to be a great companion, a faithful assistant, standing at our side daily.

From day one, the iSync interface has struck everyone by its awesome simplicity and the Apple website became full of brushed-metal buttons,

à la

iSync, to signify an area of brushed metal bliss was upon us.

With the release of Tiger however, brushed metal was politely kicked in parts that shall remain nameless on the O'Reilly Network and iSync was thanked for its hard work: .Mac synchronization was removed from its interface, iTunes took over iPod synchronization and the whole synchronizing thing went haywire.

Providing users with seamless web based synchronization is a good idea and a sound feature, for sure: go into your web browser, click on a button and poof, your bookmarks are synced with a remote computer. Open Address Book and boom, your contacts fly all by themselves to the phone nearby.

This, however, is nowhere near where we stand today. As far as I can tell, almost only Apple applications master the art of synchronizing and developers don't seem overly hot on the idea to build new preferences for that stuff to take place. Now, I don't really blame them given synchronization is tied into .Mac, an excellent but only mildly popular service. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily as it has the advantage of providing users with a standard "landing ground" for data, so to speak, and alleviates much administrative pressure. It means however that until Apple can attract almost all its Mac OS X users to .Mac and provides assurances regarding the security of transfers to the .Mac servers, there will be little incentive to provide such a feature.

With synchronization out of iSync's dying walls, things are at times highly confusing. Remind me why Safari attempts to connect to configuration.apple.com every time I toy around preferences while the .Mac preferences pane does just the same? Do I really need two interfaces to the same feature? Worse, should I not be interested in synchronizing anything, do I really need to see the same empty box twice?

I'm sure Apple has great plans for synchronization and that they should soon bear fruits. In the meantime however, we're all a bit stuck into the gray area of transition.

iSync, I miss you already.


2005-10-27 08:47:13
sad but True
It seems like your blog and Tom Bridge's blog on why he likes flickr better than dot Mac could be part of an O'Reilly conspiracy against dot Mac. Nevermind.

In this case you've hit the nail on the head. Apple needs to open up iSync in some new ways if developers will want to start adopting it.

Right now I synchronize my calendars by saving them to webDAV on my OS X server instead f relying on dot Mac. I think it would be a good first step for apple to make iSync work with their own server software. This would open the door to in-house software development to use iSync at the corporate level without paying for dot Mac or worrying about security issues. On the other hand Apple might see this as taking away from dot Mac.

2005-10-27 08:56:12
Sad but true

First of all, thank you for taking the time to post!

I can assure you there is no O'Reilly conspiracy against .Mac - that I am aware of at least - and I had no idea Tom Bridge would mention it today.

I am actually a big supporter of .Mac and have said so on this blog many times. I am the owner of more than one .Mac account and even FJZone.org was hosted on .Mac at its beginning. I deplore however the little attention the service seems to get from the hierarchy at Apple and the role to which it is confined.


2005-10-28 08:02:49
definately confusing
The most frustrating part, is the mess that has become of sync preferences. With iSync everything was in one neat place. Now it is scattered to the wind and not very consistant. Some prefs are in the app while some are in sync. Some are still in both!