Thursday, Oct 06, 2022, 16:52 Mac: Software

20 Years Ago – A Small Apple Tool Becomes The Start Of A Major Revolution, The First Version of iSync

These days, it's expected that a user's Mac and smartphone or tablets are easily synchronizable. Services such as iCloud and other non-Apple alternatives now handle synchronization of data and entries on all devices without any interference necessary on the part of the user to stay updated. However, it took a long time for things to reach this level. In the Apple ecosystem, there was already a cloud synchronization service before iCloud, "MobileMe" – intended to do that which could be done only very unreliably at the start. The minds in Cupertino, however, had already conceived of such a connection between completely different hardware platforms far earlier. "This is the beginning of something great", were the words from Steve Jobs 20 years ago when the new application "iSync" was introduced.

How iSync Changed The Platform For The Long Run
Although iSync's functionalities may seem trivial in hindsight, in 2002, however – this was a sensational step. To be able to sync calendar data and contacts between Mac and mobile phone without needing a fistful of cables was monumental. Communication took place via Bluetooth (or USB), relying on the SyncML standard. During its presentation, Jobs showed off how iSync could communicate with a mobile from Sony Ericsson, and how it would even be able to sync with an at the time still very new product – the iPod.



Digital Hub & iSync at 1:20:30

For Mac, iPod, & PalmOS
Unlike cloud syncing services today, iSync still needed manual input from the user before a synchronization attempt could take place. Despite this, the interplay between Mac and PalmOS compatible devices such as multiple models from Sony Ericsson proved frictionless once initiated. Jobs anticipated a broad reaching change to the entire market when he stated that the mobile phone was soon to become a Mac periphery. Although smartphones have recently become more important than computers to most, Jobs was right in his early estimations of the general trend. The "Digital Hub" was announced in 2001 with the intention of making the computer the center of daily digital life, whereas iSync hoped to switch things into gear and to present digital life as "one large device" consisting of many different hardware categories.

iSync Superseded After Only A Few Years
Despite the revolutionary step it represented, iSync didn't remain a part of Apple's program for very long. Come Mac OS X 10.4 and a large part of the application's functionality had been transferred into the "sync services" framework, iTunes 4.8 (released May 2005) soon took over iPod syncing. OS X Lion removed iSync alltogether, following a period of no updates to the service since 2009. Interestingly enough, the first version of iSync didn't even come from Apple, FusionOne had developed it. Since it fit along with Apple's strategy more or less perfectly, Cupertino had acquired the company. Given the further developments that iSync set the stage for, the importance of Apple's acquisition of FusionOne really can't be overstated.

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