Over at All About Symbian, Ewan writes an excellent analysis of Symbian’s shortcomings in the sync arena.
While I agree with most of his findings, here’s one I find myself pondering:
“It’s high time that Symbian sat down and wrote their own PIM Suite, so they can get on at least level terms in an area they are weak in. It doesn’t need to be a huge, all singing, all dancing client. A simple Agenda, Contacts, Notes and Tasks Suite would suffice. But it needs to be Symbian. Not Nokia, not Sony Ericsson, not Sendo… not any of the partners. This is such a fundamental area that Symbian need to show some leadership by drawing a line in the sand that says “sync problems are our responsibility, and they will be fixed.” It needs to be compatible across the range of machines (after all, many of these core apps use the same file format on each device).”
Is that really a good idea?
As I see it, the PIM market is pretty saturated. I would even go so far to say that either you’re using Outlook, or you’re not seriously interested in synchronising your mobile. This statement certainly is not the result of my perception that Outlook is the best PIM possible (certainly not!), but it is the de facto standard that everybody syncs to. Even if you’re a die-hard Palm Desktop user, the moment you get a second device you’d like to sync to, like a mobile phone, Outlook is the app to consider. They would also need to support multiple operating systems, which is a lot of debugging, developing and support that would certainly not be commercially viable. Apart from that, you’d still have no solution for Outlook users, which is the group I consider the most serious about syncing needs.
My proposal would be to put the stuff on the network layer: write a web based PIM that syncs quickly and flawlessly to Symbian phones, possibly even with integrated push mechanisms.
Provide a SyncML interface and an Outlook plugin, plus connectivity to iSync and Linux PIMs. Oh, and please: do SyncML in a way that actually works, and make sure you support the full set of fields in all those PIMs.
Consider co-operating with services like Plaxo to provide additional value.
Simply put: don’t try to compete with Microsoft for the PIM leadership, provide something that’s the most natural way for a Symbian phone user to work with. If using Outlook with some strange sync software is a better experience, you have already lost.
This is a one time chance to do things right. A second PC Suite and more of that mrouter crap, and anybody serious about PIM synchronisation will never consider a Symbian phone again. I certainly won’t.