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This almost became a Dear Microsoft letter, but I decided at the last minute that most of these goals could be accomplished by just about anybody.  So instead I’m going to start a new recurring column, “What I want.”

This was originally supposed to be about the Tablet PC, but since I accidentally posted this before I wanted to, I've relabeled it with the more general topic of “mobility,“ since that's really the focus of this post.  I'll post “part 2“ tomorrow with more Tablet specific examples.

So here are my biggest mobility concerns right now:


1)      Synchronization

This is a biggy for me.  My Windows Mobile smartphone/PDA does this pretty well.  I put it in its cradle and it syncs with Outlook and any file folders to which I’ve directed it.  While it’s in the cradle, everything is kept up to date.  When it’s not in the cradle, my phone connects to the internet every 1 or 2 hours (peak or off-peak hours), initiates a VPN connection to my desktop, and syncs up the same way.  My car-computer syncs over WiFi now and then to the same desktop, also using Activesync.

My desktop also syncs to MSN using the Outlook Connector for MSN.  So all of my information is available from virtually any device with web access.  But my tablet syncs there also.  And here’s where the fun begins.  For some reason, Outlook insists on giving me reminders for things that have already happened when it syncs with MSN.  In fact, the reminders seem to “bounce” between my desktop and laptop – leading me to believe that they didn’t test out the obvious scenario of having two computers sync’ing with the same MSN account.  Duh.  So for now I’ve disabled reminders on both copies of Outlook and simply let my phone and car-computer do the reminding.   

So this works pretty well for e-mail, calendar, and contacts.  For the most part, they follow me everywhere and are always up-to-date.  Unless I change something on my tablet while it’s not online…  Then it won’t end up on my phone til the evening probably.  And the whole thing is much more complicated than it should be.

I want a “personal synchronization group” of some kind.  I want an information synchronization standard… perhaps something like Windows Media Connect, but for information.  I want to create a “synchronization domain,” and let each of my information devices join it.  So my tablet, desktop, phone, and car-computer all identify themselves as being part of “Brandon’s Synch Domain.”  When one of the devices detects another member of the group, they sync.  I want them to identify each other regardless of the medium.  Internet, LAN, Bluetooth, Wifi, USB cradle, etc…  And I want them to know common ways to contact each other if they have something to share.  For instance…

If I update an appointment in my phone, when I get in my car, the car-computer (another Windows Mobile PDA) should detect the presence of my phone via Bluetooth.  Then they should sync.  My phone should say, “Oh!  And appointment has been updated!  I better get on the line and tell Brandon’s computer!”  So it connects to the internet and syncs with my desktop.  My tablet at this point is probably turned off in my briefcase.  But when I turn it back on, it should think “okay… resumed from standby.  Oh look, a wireless network, I should see if Brandon’s Desktop has anything new.”  At that point it should get the appointment.  It should also say “Hey look, Brandon has his phone.  I should sync with that too.”  (via Bluetooth of course).  If there is no internet connection, it should still sync with the phone.  And the phone should say, “Here’s what you missed while you were hibernating.  By the way, I talked to Brandon’s desktop just a few minutes ago, so all this stuff should be up-to-date.”  Then my laptop knows how new its information is.  An hour later my phone should again connect to my desktop.  If it finds something new, it should check to see if my laptop is still nearby.  If it is, it should sync.  But if there’s nothing new on my desktop, there’s no need for it to even look for my laptop.  Then if I add something on my laptop, it should send it to the phone, and so on…

Basically, I want some real intelligence in my devices.  Okay, maybe not intelligence… just intelligent design.  Oh, and Activesync for desktops/laptops.  That is a must.  Copying PST files is a nightmare.  And there really isn’t any other good way to sync Outlook on multiple computers without Exchange (or MSN).  Exchange isn’t an option for lots of people, and would be overkill for most of us.  MSN/Outlook Live is a better solution… but it should be fixed so that it works better with multiple computers!

2)      Communication

MSN Messenger needs some serious work here.  I love the app, especially 7.0.  I love that it lets you send text messages to someone’s phone if they’re offline.  That’s great technology, for 2002.  But this is 2005. 

If I connect to MSN Messenger on my phone, it kicks my desktop off!!!  If I connect with my tablet, the same thing happens!

AOL IM does this a bit better… it lets you connect from two places at once.  And it sends messages to both places unless one of them is set to “away,” in which case it is only sent to the other.  But it misses the most obvious scenario… Being logged in from my phone.

I want one of these guys to do a SEAMLESS interoperation between IM’ing from home, at work, on my laptop, or on a phone.  I want to sign in to my name from at least three places at once.  My desktop at home is always online, and should be.  My laptop is online when I’m using it (and in range), and my phone is always able to connect… and can receive push messages from SMS.

So if someone IM’s me and I’m at home, the message should ONLY go to my desktop.  But if I’m online on my laptop, I probably want that device to get priority.  So the IM should go there first.  If I don’t answer it within a few minutes, I want it forwarded to my cell phone via SMS.  I want the MSN Messenger app on my Windows Mobile phone to “catch” the SMS message and open up a chat window.  If I respond, it should connect to the net (if the phone isn’t already, mine almost always is) and send the message.  Any replies should be sent directly to my phone.

Right now my options are:

1) Two screen names.  One for my desktop, and one for my phone.  But then, which do I use on my laptop?  At work?  Do I need three?  Or four?  I don't think I should need any more than one.

2)  Manually log on to the computer when I sit down, and always log on to my phone when I leave the computer.  Talk about a pain in the neck...

My messenger service should know where I am.  It shouldn't need to send messages to my phone if I'm at my desktop, and vice versa.  Perhaps even more importantly, I should never have to manually log in to my messenger service.  It should be completely automatic.  This should be where Instant Messaging really shines.  You should be able to always reach me via IM (unless of course I'm trying not to be reached), no matter where I am.  Why this hasn't happened boggles my mind.


Okay so I wasn't really done with this, but had to run off.  For some reason, it seems Newsgator decided to post it anyway... you can imagine my surprise when I got home and found replies to an entry I didn't think I'd posted yet!  Trackbacks from the future!!!!  So I've more or less rapped up what's here, and will post Part 2 tomorrow.


Posted on Tuesday, January 25, 2005 4:15 PM What I Want | Back to top

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