The cloud is not enough


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I’ve been reviewing smartphones since before they were phones. I mean since they were unconnected, network unaware PDAs and I was marked as a hardcore geek for using them.

I’ve seen Psion and Palm rise and fall, Apple stake its claim, BlackBerry bring itself out of the office and of course I’ve seen Android shoot for the stars.

Over the years I’ve carried more smartphones and other mobile gadgets than most people, tried more operating systems, evaluated more features.

My allegiance has flitted from device to device, from operating system to operating system. But one thing has remained constant.

Whatever device I’ve carried in my pocket, including those very early non network aware ones, I’ve always had access to a complete duplicate of calendar and contacts as found on my main computer.

The duplicates have got onto the smartphones via desktop synchronisation. In recent years the core information has been supplemented by the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Google.

So far, so very, very good.

But then along comes Windows Phone 7 and it doesn’t allow contacts and calendar to be synchronised from the desktop. You can synchronise music, video, podcasts and pictures thanks to Zune. But contacts and calendar have to come from the cloud.

Which means they have to get into the cloud in the first place.

Those who aren’t supported by an Exchange based email system need a Windows Live Hotmail account. They need to install the Outlook Hotmail connector. Then they need to drag data within Outlook so that it is copied between the desktop file and Windows Live.

With contacts and calendar in the cloud, logging in to Windows Live on a Windows Phone 7 device allows the phone to pick them up.

I can see how some people will find this cloud based lark absolutely ideal. But if there’s one thing the smartphone world makes abundantly clear it is that one size does not fit all.

Microsoft, you are coming from behind having lost a lot of market share to Android, Apple and BlackBerry while you’ve been tinkering with your smartphone OS.

Maybe I’m wrong to think that you might consider going for the widest market you can in that circumstance. But given that Android, BlackBerry and iPhone can all collect contacts and calendar data from both the desktop and the cloud I wonder why you decided stick with just the cloud.

How about adding calendar and contact sync to Zune?

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