This past summer, I switched

by francine Hardaway on September 22, 2004

This past summer, I switched from a Windows laptop to a Mac Powerbook G4. I love it. OS 10.3 is a cool operating system. The machine never freezes or crashes. Airport is a wonderful wireless network product. And the Mac syncs seamlessly with the 1400 songs on my IPOD. It’s lightweight, well-lit, easy to use, and attractive. Yes, attractive counts, especially if you are always in public places with your laptop and you think you have a strong personal brand.

However, shortly before that, I also switched to a Motorola Smartphone with the Windows Mobile 2002 operating system (the MPX220). You can see already where this is headed. I saw the phone, shiny black plastic, in the airport in Hong Kong and fell in love with it. Because it’s GSM, I used it all over Asia by changing out the SIM card. Then I brought it back here and put it on T-Mobile.

Needless to say, I can’t sync my Microsoft phone to my Apple laptop, despite the fact that I use Mac Office 2004 as my productivity suite. Entourage, Mac’s version of Outlook, keeps my contacts, calendar, email, and projects all in one integrated system. But there�s no sychronization software for it that I know of. (Please take this as a cry for help).

So I’m exactly where I don’t want to be: I can’t trade information with myself.

Thus, I am going to buy a new phone. It will have to be at least as smart as the MPX 200. The alternatives are fascinating, as the smartphone niche has gotten a lot of attention lately.

There’s the Treo 600, which runs on the Palm OS and could, in theory, sync itself to my desktop although not to Entourage. I’ve had Palms and Palm phones for many years, and struggled to sync them with Outlook. But I don’t have Outlook, and I don’t want Palm Desktop.

There’s the Motorola MPX 220, which all my reading says is an awesome phone with everything I would ever need (in techspeak we call this “feature-rich”). It has Bluetooth, for the wireless headset (a requirement for the style-savvy who will not walk around with wires hanging out of their ears), built in camera, and a supposedly excellent operating system (Windows Mobile 2003), with a lot of RAM for a phone. The phone probably needs it to run Windows, a known memory hog.

And then there is the Blackberry 7102, the newest offering from RIM. The corporate Blackberry has long been a cult favorite. This Blackberry called the Blackberry phone, has a color screen and a keyboard which, although not full QWERTY, is better than punching numbers on the phone if you do email or IM.

There is also a new Nokia smart phone, which I rule out because I don’t like its design. BTW, all these phones are launched first in Europe and Asia, and then find their way to the US later.

Not one of these phones will allow me to sync to Entourage, even though it is a Microsoft product. Can you tell I am frustrated?

That’s the penalty for being me, an early adopter. I have heard that primitive cell phones — the big bulky ones we used to have — are becoming trendy for young people who didn’t use them when they were new and think it’s chic to carry a huge retro phone. That wouldn’t be me. I want my convergence complete, my office in my purse.

I suspect it is technologically possible to develop a universal synchronization tool that could work with any desktop productivity suite and any cell phone. Perhaps I should choose the phone I really want, and commission a piece of custom software to connect it to my G4.

But I know what will happen if I make this investment.

Apple has just launched its G5 desktop machines. That means within a year or so, there will be G5 laptops, and I will feel the old urge to upgrade. The G5 will run some different productivity software that Microsoft will develop just for it, and that software will again be incompatible with what I have had developed for the phone.

Fortunately, I�m not an enterprise, and I only have to solve this problem on a scale of one. This is, however, the first time I can honestly sympathize with the IT manager who is asked to provide support across such a broad range of devices by users who all want what I want, and have different preferences.

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