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SyncML open sources universal data sync system

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Industry-sponsored standards development body SyncML unveiled version 1.0 of its platform-independent data synchronisation spec today.

The organisation, founded back in February by the IBM, Motorola, Ericsson, Psion and Palm, among others, released the system's XML-based data transfer specification and the software behind it free to the public under an open source licence.

SyncML's technology essentially allows multiple systems to synchronise data much as Palm's HotSync ensures copies of data on a host PC and a PDA are kept in harmony. SyncML, however, is platform-independent, so neither PIM, say, or PDA need to know how either works in order to communicate.

SyncML initally operates over HTTP, WAP's WSP, Bluetooth and IrDA (infra-red) transport protocols, though it is transport-independent.

The organisation expects the first SyncML-compliant devices to appear during the first quarter of 2001. SyncML chairman Douglas Heintzman said he expects the number of compliant devices and applications to ramp up significantly throughout the year.

Incidentally, SyncML sponsor Palm is expected to ship the next major version of PalmOS during that period, so it's likely the technology will be incorporated into Palm's HotSync, ultimately ending the need for different Conduits for different applications.

That said, SyncML's success depends on its acceptance by software and OS vendors. In addition to its eight founder members, the group cites some 500 supporting companies, but the vast majority are small developers and wireless firms.

And Microsoft isn't among them. Heintzman played that down, suggesting the software giant knows what SyncML is up to and will presumably be digesting the newly release spec. Lack of support from the maker of Outlook and PocketPC is something of a handicap for take-up in the consumer arena.

SyncML's support from Palm and Symbian is probably more important than getting PocketPC SyncML compliance, but Outlook support is essential. Sun's support for the would-be standard suggests it will soon make its way into Java. ®

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