Sync is the New Pink

Whenever Amy tries to explain fashion to me, she says something like “orange is the new pink.”  I’m not color blind, but I never really understand this – partly because I don’t really like pink (or fashion.)  Ok, ok – I get the metaphor.

I love the word “synchronization.”  Early Lotus Notes users (and database geeks) will prefer “replication” which I did until I saw Blade Runner for the first time.  So – synchronization – or sync (not “synch”) is my preferred word.  The construct is the same.

There was a time – in the late 1990’s – where sync became popular.  Microsoft Exchange promulgated the phrase into mainstream corporate IT while the Palm Pilot got folks like my dad saying the word “sync” on a regular basis.  Sync was hot – and important – for a little while.

Post-bubble, sync wasn’t to be found anywhere.  The emergence of broadband and the rise of the consumer Internet rendered sync less interesting and it faded.  Exchange users still loved it most of the time (except when Outlook sat there and grinded away on a slow connection), but they stopped cherishing (and talking about) it.

I’ve never loved laptops as my only computer.  I’ve got a desktop in each office I work in using almost exactly the same configuration as their fellow desktops.  Today, almost all of my data lives in the cloud or on a server somewhere so I have these lovingly overpowered desktops with beautiful monitors to do email and browse the web.  However, when it’s all seamless and works, it’s really nice and allows me to only have to carry my smartphone (running Windows Mobile) around with me.

All my friends that are “web only” – especially my Mac buddies – are suddenly starting to find that their data isn’t always where they want it to be.  Specifically – it’s not on their laptop when they are offline (e.g. on a plane) or on their desktop at home (when they leave their laptop at work.)  Oops. 

Sync is coming on fast.  Again.  Mary Foley just wrote an article about Microsoft Sync Framework CTP1 titled Microsoft delivers first test build of its online-offline sync platformGoogle Gears appeared six months ago and several of my friends at Google (and the Google Gears API site) suggest it’s going to be the automagic offline sync interface from Google.  I remember the joy I had when I discovered the Google Browser Sync Firefox Extension.

Several really smart developers I know are working on “sync” applications – both at the file and object level.  Everyone that I know that is working on sync talks about how important it is to make it invisible to the user.  Well duh.  It should have been built into the operating systems that were released in the past 12 months (you each know who you are) but it wasn’t (although the perversion referred to as Sync Center tries, but not very hard.)  The window is still open for real sync solutions – at least for another major OS iteration.

Sync is the new pink.

  • Brad-

    I’m glad to see this post from you. To me, synchronization is a logical progression from syndication. It’s an order of magnitude or two more complicated–and valuable.

    Sync is hard, but in my experience the real challenge is mapping disparate data models for things like calendar events, contacts, etc., and overlaying sync operations on top of that map. It’s ridiculously statefull, and it’s managing the state changes that can get tricky.

    Microsoft has the opportunity to do something really slick here, since they own the stack all the way from your Windows PC and Windows Mobile device through the Live platform and applications.

    I’ll be interested to see if Microsoft leaves any significant white space for third parties in their sync regime. I doubt it. I think MS has made the realization Apple did years ago: third-party developers are great, but there’s a war on (again) and it’s being fought between the giants. If a few small guys get stepped on during the fight, well, that’s just too bad.

    Frankly, I think that’s the right decision for them. They’re no longer bootstrapping an ecosystem–they’re hunting in it.


  • Tom

    Brad –

    Nice post.

    One thing you’ve never mentioned is Groove. (Is that what you use to syncH your multiple computurs? It’s how I syncH mine.) Groove is a great compromise between user transparency and user control…it’s something that Ray Ozzie got right. The power and ubiquitous applicability of transparent syncHing is eye opening …it should be built in to Vista, instead being buried in an Office bundle. If you haven’t played with it, give it a whirl…

    (silent H’s rule!)

  • Brad:

    Unrelated to the prime theme of your post, I understand that a new Directors Cut of Blade Runner is being released for the Holiday’s. The primary reason for another Directors Cut is to honor the 25th anniversary of the film. Ridley Scott apparently shot about 6 hours of film and some of the plot was changed in the released version. Who knew that Rick Deckard was a replicant himself?

    I am looking forward to this new version.

  • StartupTrekTV

    Yeah, i struggled through the earlier phase of "Sync" with various hand-held computing devices, trying to keep them in sync with Outlook, wired, wirelessly, etc. I eventually came to realize that the word is (data) Coherency, not so much sync. It's more fundamental, and really you don't want to "do sync", you just want your datasets to remain coherent. When you use your data across multiple devices, you just want to keep your dataset coherent across mutliple instances (whether you do it by using one instance in the cloud; or it's spread around).

    Therefore, I'd vote for "Data Coherency is the New Pink". It's Geekier, and it's more to the point too:)

    co·her·ent (k-hîrnt, -hr-) adj.
    1. Sticking together; cohering.
    2. Marked by an orderly, logical, and aesthetically consistent relation of parts: a coherent essay.