Saturday, May 27, 2006

ActiveSync, SyncML and the evil empire

I have always admired Microsoft. I guess I am one of the few open source people with sincere admiration for Microsoft. Not really for the quality of their software (you need open source for that), but because they have been able to hold on a cash cow while they could afford to make a lot of mistakes to find the new revenue stream. When they have been successful, they have made it with a Trojan horse.
What is the last success of Microsoft? I would say Internet Explorer. It was ten years ago. And it was free (as in beer) software. Mediocre quality, never improved for lack of competition (now it is coming, so they are moving again). But it was its Trojan horse to control the web. And they still control it (even if Google is putting up a good fight).
The cash cow are Windows, Office and Exchange. Period. Enough to create a monopoly of insane magnitude.
What's next? Mobile, of course. There is a paradigm shift to mobile, they cannot miss it.
What is their Trojan horse there? ActiveSync. Forget about Windows Mobile, they know they will not be able to control the mobile OS market, as they did with the desktop market. They tried with the server market and failed. Nobody will allow them to succeed in it. I heard a nice story once: "I told my daughter not to use the hammer because she could get hurt. She used anyway. She got hurt. She cried. She came back and said she won't do it again. I know she won't." Mobile device manufacturer will not allow Microsoft to do what they did to PC manufacturers.
So... why ActiveSync? Because it is the link between the mobile and the fixed world. It is the glue that ties the two worlds, which cannot live separately. Because data synchronization is for mobile what the browser is for the Internet.
On ActiveSync, you move your PIM data (contacts, calendar, etc.), you do messaging (Pocket Outlook), you move files, you move applications, you develop the new crop of mobile software. Applications will be resident on devices. ActiveSync is the trick that Microsoft is using to power the mobile Internet, based on mobile widgets.
ActiveSync is not only on Windows Mobile devices. They are licensing it around like crazy. Symbian has licensed it. Nokia has licensed it. It is on Palm. They are playing with the hammer in their hands...
How good is ActiveSync? Mediocre, as usual. It has been built for desktop synchronization over serial and USB. They extended it to over-the-air synchronization but it was not built for it. It is ugly. The Microsoft Direct Push technology is even worse. It drains the battery on the device and requires an IT Manager to expose Exchange on the Internet. Though, it is getting everywhere. Monopolies have some power.
Now, who is fighting ActiveSync? Is Sun doing it? Is Google doing it? Is IBM doing it? Is Red Hat doing it? Is Oracle doing it? Nope. They haven't seen it coming. The only alternative in the market is SyncML, an open standard by the Open Mobile Alliance. It is installed on 700 million phones, 80% of the devices sold last year. It does what ActiveSync does and much better (built for over-the-air sync from day one). It is a grass root movement, probably also because of Funambol with our huge community and our 500,000 downloads. It is a phenomenal success. We are fighting the evil empire on its new battle. We discovered the Trojan horse. We are pointing to it. However, we do not have the marketing power of Microsoft... I guess we could use some help ;-)
Do not let ActiveSync get into your network...It is the new Trojan horse of the evil empire. Go with SyncML. Do not let them lock you in once again. Man, they are good!!