Managing the Metadata Is Key
Managing the metadata is key The key to enabling an information-sharing and syncing service is to manage the metadata around the actual data. If I define a JPEG image file, part of the information is the type of file (JPEG), and the information about the image (such as resolution, date and time it was taken and, possibly, the location). It might also contain a simple thumbnail version of the image that provides a peek into the actual image. These are useful when viewing lots of images so that you can see what's in the image without actually having to open it.Systems such as Sharpcast SugarSync focus on syncing and sharing the metadata first and the actual file later. Thus, when you add a photo to a folder, SugarSync uploads the metadata very quickly so it appears to be on the Web and the mobile device-when, in fact, the full file (or appropriate subset on the mobile device) shows up later. Sharpcast has developed a way to work in the background, uploading files while the user's system is fully available. They compress and do some novel things so that it appears to be uploading data faster than the underlying link. The key to companies such as Sharpcast and Soonr is how fast they get adopted by the large players in the Internet and mobile space. Sharpcast offers the SugarSync service to users, but their future success is tied to how soon they are adopted by companies such as EarthLink, Comcast and AT&T Wireless that will provide millions of customers with their information-sharing and syncing service. Additional information-sharing services I'd be remiss if I didn't point out other successful information-sharing services such as KodakGallery and HP Shutterfly (both photos-only), FTP (any file to/from the Web, but not viewing), YouTube (video only up to 10 minutes) and Google Documents (which allows users to store their latest files and others to access, thus always having the latest version of the file). And, social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace allow users to upload specific information from their PC and share it with friends. These services are not designed, however, to store all of the information on a user's system. Information sharing and viewing across PCs, Macs, the Web and mobile is different from just doing backup and is a much harder problem to solve. In the future, I'd like to see a service like SugarSync (or some other company) provide users with the ability to share photos, videos and just about any file type across multiple PCs, the Web and mobile. Someday-I hope within five years-all of us will use such an information-sharing and syncing service and wonder how we got along without it before. J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D., is the VP and Chief Analyst with the Frost & Sullivan North American Information & Communication Technologies Practice. As a nationally recognized industry authority, he focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the mobile computing and wireless data communications industry in North America. Since joining Frost & Sullivan in 2006, Dr. Purdy has been specializing in mobile and wireless devices, wireless data communications and connection to the infrastructure that powers the data in the wireless handheld. He is author of Inside Mobile & Wireless, which provides industry insights and reaches over 100,000 readers per month. For more than 16 years, Dr. Purdy has been consulting, speaking, researching, networking, writing and developing state-of-the-art concepts that challenge people's mind-sets, and developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, his ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile & wireless industry. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Disclosure Statement: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in this column. If that situation happens, then I'll disclose it at that time. I have an affiliation with IDG Ventures.
Soonr is another young company that has developed a solution for sharing and remotely accessing a user's information. Their solution is sold through telecommunications and SAAS (software as a service) providers under their own brands. Soonr integrates collaboration, continuous backup with versioning, and ability to easily find, monitor and take action on documents even when all you have is a mobile phone. They've developed browser-based mobile applications and, so far, the service has been used on more than 800 different devices. Most recently, Soonr has added an iPhone native client, leveraging many parts of the existing mobile Web application. You'll be hearing more about Soonr in 2009 as they broaden their market from Europe into the United States.