So I was reading daringfireball, as usual, and this post on MobileMe and syncing piqued my interest. I’ve come to adore MobileMe, because around 15 months ago as all of a sudden my wife and I have calendar & contacts shared between 3 Macs and 2 iPhones, and hopefully one day an iPad.
It was this wireless, immediate syncing that finally pushed us over to really using our iPhones to replace paper-based calendars and address books. And the iPad will fill one need we’ve had; an immediately visible calendar for the whole family to see, possibly with a family photo slideshow thrown in.
So in the aforementioned article, John Gruber is commenting on Sachin Agarwal’s post on MobileMe. Agarwal wants MobileMe to be free, and to sync everything else that on our mobile devices; media, and presumably apps and their data. Gruber comments is that this isn’t feasible, which I take issue with.
With 802.11n in the iPad, and surely in next month’s (oooh, NEXT MONTH) “iPhone HD”, we’ll now have access to our home network and the computers on it at, let’s say 15-20 MB/s (which is what I see in practice.)
Now does that figure ring a bell? How fast is a USB 2.0 connection in reality? I get a transfer rate from my USB drives of around 20 MB/s. So 802.11N is certainly fast enough for syncing on a local network.
But not to the cloud. (Are we allowed to drop the quotation marks on “the cloud” yet?) There, we have tiny download and even more craptacular upload speeds, (4 Mb/s down and 1 Mb/s up for me) and that’s likely to be true for years to come.
So no, we’re not going to have all our tens of gigabytes of photo, music, and video media in the cloud for a long time yet.
Let’s take a step back then. We already have iTunes home sharing, which means that making sure all our iTunes downloads and CD/DVD rips end up on the home server is no longer a totally manual process. It’s only natural that this will eventually extend to our iPhones and iPads, in a very similar way. This can work, since unlike calendars, contacts & email, our media collections don’t change radically very often, rather we’re just adding a CD or movie every week or so.
The way I’d see this working would use the magic of Bonjour (as see in iTunes Home Sharing, the AppleTV, and even the iPhones themselves when used with the Apple Remote program to control iTunes). When your iSomething is on your home 802.11N network, it would appear in iTunes just as if it were connected via USB. Syncing would be handled when the device was inactive, and if necessary due to the large transfers, only when connected to power.
Ultimately then, this would be the out-of-box experience:
- You buy an iPad or iPhone.
- Turn it on and login with your MobileMe account.
- Your email, calendars and contacts sync down from Apple’s servers.
- Your media and applications sync over your local wireless network.
- Boom! You’re done.
And as a final comment on Gruber’s post, I’d agree that turning iTunes accounts into basic MobileMe accounts is a brilliant idea. (And the years I’ve already paid for can be refunded through iTunes credit.)