Google Sync offers two way synchronisation for a variety of mobile devices ranging from the iPhone to Series 60 devices to Blackberries (and a couple in between). It offers the ability to keep your Gmail contacts and Google Calendars in sync although not all devices support Google Calendar just yet. Installing the service on my Nokia E71 involved creating a new synchronisation profile which was easy enough. The first time I attempted to synchronise the 1 796 contacts in my phone the processed bugged out with an “Invalid host address” error. Hopefully second time is a charm.
The one big challenge with these services is handling duplicates so I hopefully won’t have too many duplicates jamming up the works because what Google Sync doesn’t seem to have is Plaxo’s De-Duper technology which is, for some, enough of a reason to subscribe to Plaxo’s $49 a year premium service.
Google Sync will also give MobileMe a run for its money. MobileMe has very limited device support and costs about €65 a year (in SA the currency switches to Euros and works out more expensive that the quoted $99). Compare that to broader device support, offline access to Gmail and Gcal and $75 to add double the amount of storage space to your Google Account (20GB on MobileMe versus 40GB on Google).
The next contender is Nokia’s Ovi service. I have seen Ovi as a MobileMe competitor, at least a potential competitor mainly because it creates that link between my Nokia phone and an online service.
Ovi supports contacts, calendar, files and media although synchronising with a desktop is limited to a Windows PC. The interface isn’t quite a slick as its competitors but it does present an alternative to Apple’s beautiful yet limited offerings. Ovi’s pricing is a little high ($80 a year for 10GB or $150 a year for 30GB storage for files), especially when compared to MobileMe but a tussle between these two offerings is more a tussle between the iPod/iPhone/Mac combination and Nokia/Windows PC devices.
Google’s Sync has the potential to overtake these other services very quickly. Gmail and GCal are already widely used and even if you don’t have some level of integration between your desktop apps and these two services (already possible on the Mac due to Google Sync integration into Address Book and a script or something for iCal), all you really need now is a browser and a supported mobile device to keep your contacts and mail in sync and, if your mobile device supports it, your calendar too.
My one big concern, even more so now than before, is whether it is desirable to have a single provider so involved in so many areas of our lives and pretty much in control of this key data we run our lives on? I took a look at my Google Account profile and saw this plethora of Google services I subscribe to:
I didn’t realise I was subscribed to so many Google services. Thankfully my daily work and personal lives only rely on a couple of these but those few key services include my email! That already is a lot of control I have given to Google and even more trust I have placed in that foreign organisation to respect my data and “do no evil”.
Leaving aside the Big Brother fears, Google is fast becoming part of the wallpaper. Google Sync makes my Google Account a pretty compelling alternative to its closest competitor, MobileMe, and at a lower cost. I am already a Gmail user (Google Apps too, several times over) so there is no change of email address there. I can probably switch my extensive photo albums from MobileMe to PicasaWeb when my MobileMe subscription ends in October (which would unfortunately involve needing to introduce my mom and other family members to PicasaWeb just when I had them used to MobileMe’s Galleries) and otherwise carry on as usual. It would cost me a lot less to pay for the extra storage for my Google Account that it will to renew my MobileMe account and should the rumours about the GDrive prove true (after a couple years in the making), that would take care of basic file storage to compete with iDisk (which I rarely use anyway).
I can easily see a day when Google is everything on the Web. It will effectively be the Internet for a great many people and those same people should spare a prayer for its leaders and the hope that they never lose their way and turn on us. That could be very bad. We may have to go back to Yahoo! Mail (I still have my account there … just in case).