Concept count is a useful metric when you’re trying to figure out which technologies will or won’t be adopted. I mentioned this idea in a discussion of calendar cross-publishing, where I enumerated the numbingly long list of concepts I had to understand in order to achieve bidirectional synchronization of my Outlook (business) and Google (family) calendars.
Yesterday, when my Jurassic-era (i.e., 2003) LG cellphone died, I went out and bought a Motorola KRZR. Then, despite my best intentions, I stayed up way too late figuring out all the things it can do. Talk about concept count! MP3 player, still camera, video camera, USB drive, calendar, voice recognition and dialing, speakerphone, voice recorder, wired and wireless file transfer, assorted Bluetooth services, assorted data services, installable applications (email, news, weather), text messaging, multimedia messaging, GPS…oh, and by the way, it makes phone calls too.
One thing missing from this cornucupia, though, was contact and calendar synchronization. The old LG lasted long enough to surrender this data to U.S. Cellular’s all-purpose synchronizer, which squirted it into the new phone, but I lacked an ongoing solution. The salesman, of course, knew nothing about the available synchronization options. I guess most people don’t even expect that the data they accumulate on their phones will get backed up anywhere.
That is my expectation, though. So immediately I descended into the circle of hell where random postings on web forums lead you to obscure applications, strange device drivers, and contradictory advice.
Because I’d been down this road before, I had a clue where I was going. My first stop was BitPim which almost worked on my Mac but in the end didn’t, and sort of worked on my Vista laptop once I installed the Motorola driver that makes the phone’s USB port look like a COM port.
Next I tried Sync Cell on Vista and got better results. It seems to connect to the emulated COM port more reliably than BitPim, and can perform the full range of transfers: contacts, calendar events, files.
But wait a second, this is a Bluetooth phone, can’t the synchronization go wireless? Yes, no, it depends what you mean. Both computers can pair with the phone, and both operating systems can natively see the phone’s file system and transfer its files back and forth. But contact (and calendar) synchronization requires third-party software. In the end I got Synch Cell to work on Vista, but achieving that result required a number of steps, the last of which was to enable a Bluetooth service called Dial-Up Networking to make the Bluetooth connection look like a COM port.
Let’s add up some of the key concepts involved in just the single activity of backing up your contacts:
- Device drivers
- File systems
- Network services
- Wired networks
- Wireless networks
- Port emulation
This is clearly unsustainable, which is why the salesfolk don’t even discuss the possibility of backing up your contacts.
There’s an obvious right answer: Provide a service that just works. On a recent episode of the Technometria podcast David Platt gave a nice example. Like most people he was backup-challenged. Then he found a service that quietly, in the background, squirts his data into the cloud.
Why can’t there be something like that for my phone?
Heh. As it turns out, there is. Simple and automatic services. That’s a concept people will be able to wrap their heads around.