Microsoft My Phone Is Only A Placeholder

We suddenly seem to be overrun with everyone wanting to sync their mobile phone OS with their own cloud services and our Exchange servers. That's very nice. We've effectively eliminated the USB cable for syncing our phones, a useful and beneficial feature. The other benefit of these services is we now have a back up of our device's contents (some of its contents at least) in the cloud and in Google's case, you can access that information in Google's applications (gmail, docs, etc.) In Microsoft My Phone's case they'll sync with Windows Live apps and services, and both company's offerings will sync up with the corporate Exchange server.

Before we get to the "placeholder" teaser in my blog post title, let me share a few reactions about Microsoft's My Phone offering... Maybe we'll see more at the official launch (though I doubt we will) but at first blush I was pretty surprised at the limitations of Microsoft's My Phone services. First, the default settings only sync your device once daily (if I'm understanding their web page description correctly). It's not clear what options you may have to sync more frequently. Next, the syncing process is still fundamentally the same as it was when we plugged in our phones and ran ActiveSync: connect, scan our address book, email and documents for changes, match them up, and push up or down any changes. It's not the peer-to-peer or cloud service type sync Microsoft brought out with Live Mesh. Lastly, Microsoft is playing a poor game of catch up to Google and an even worse game of catch up with Apple's MobileMe which has much greater functionality. Except for its $99 subscription price, MobileMe has a much more comprehensive offering, performing immediate syncing when changes occur, nicely integrated web apps, and providing PC-to-PC syncing of contacts and emails through Outlook. It's only glaring limitation is that MobileMe doesn't sync to Exchange, rather that's done outside MobileMe through the iPhone's Exchange integration.

I would have expected Microsoft to build My Phone upon Live Mesh and Live Framework services such that changes on a Windows Mobile phone would be sync'd up incrementally and automatically in the background. Clearly Microsoft felt the need to at least get something out in market, even if My Phone is significantly more limited than Google's and especially Apple's services.

I can see where Microsoft's going with their strategy... Online Office apps, email and contacts, Exchange that's hosted and/or located in the enterprise, and application collaboration, all with desktop, laptop and mobile devices synchronizing data and documents. But My Phone's ActiveSync type sync technology doesn't fit this picture. Rather, Microsoft's Live Mesh, Live Framework and Sync Framework peer-to-peer mesh technology operating through Windows Azure services very much does. Clearly this is the future Microsoft's creating.

That tells me the current generation Microsoft My Phone services are a quick and dirty answer to getting a placeholder in market until these other technologies and services are ready. At the least, it keeps Microsoft in the game and stops all of us from speculating why Microsoft hasn't put their stake in the ground. I've got to believe there's a lot of pressure to get My Phone moved on top of the Live Mesh sync technology. 

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