How It All Comes Together

february 29, 2004

Here's the great thing about when a company is as innovative and forward looking as Apple is. See, Microsoft does a lot of things and a lot of things Microsoft does well. But, unlike the spiel they put out, they are not innovators. They are mere followers when it comes to technology. An example of this that I am discovering now is the benefits of Apple's forward vision and Microsoft's hind vision with Bluetooth. Apple has gone to great lengths to make Bluetooth a truly viable solution on their platform and it has paid off. Their suite of software, iSync, iCal, Address Book and some utilities within MacOS X make Bluetooth what it should be: a replacement for cables. With built-in Bluetooth or a Bluetooth dongle there is a helluvalot of stuff that one can do with thier Macintosh system. For instance, with my Sony Ericsson T610, using iSync, I can sync my contacts with the Address Book and my calendar and to-do list with iCal. In Address Book I can turn on the Bluetooth functionality and that opens up a whole new world to the Address Book. First, any incoming calls will trigger Address Book to bring up the contact information based on the Caller ID of the person calling (including picture if there is one attached to the Address Book card). Second, by simply clicking the mobile number of the person, I can send an SMS message to them via Address Book and not have to bother with T9 predictive text on the phone. I can use the built-in Bluetooth File Transfer utility to send and get files from my phone. I can do the same with my Palm Tungsten T, which also has Bluetooth built-in. I can use Romeo or Salling Clicker to control my Mac from either my Palm or my T610 -- I can control anything on my iBook using those two pieces of software (iTunes, iPhoto, Keynote, even PowerPoint!) There is also proximity triggers with the software, so if I were to leave the room (with my phone on my hip), my iTunes would be paused, my iChat would show that I am away, etc. Also, there is also triggers for events like if my phone were to ring then iTunes would pause and iChat would show that I am on the phone -- phone call over? It all goes back to when I was off the phone. And if I found that there was functionality that wasn't included? I could script it with AppleScript. Can the same be done on a Windows box? Barely. Where Apple treats the Bluetooth device as a real device and gives it real functionality, Microsoft treats the Bluetooth device as just a simple COM port. If your PC has too many COM ports, tough luck. There is software to do almost the same thing, like PCControl, but it is not as comprehesive and if there is something that you couldn't do? Well, you can't do it. Also, Microsoft has not put together a free suite of software to do calendaring, syncing, or contact management. There is definitely no calendar that is integrated with Windows. Contact management could be done with Microsoft's Outlook Express. But there is no way to synchronize anything out of the box. If I wanted to do that I could use PC Suite that comes with the T610 (XTNDConnect for PC) to help me synchronize my phone with the Windows box, but there is no multi-device syncing like with iSync. There are no similar hooks in to MSN Messenger. Microsoft is saying that they are going to add functionality into the next release of Windows ("Longhorn") which most likely will not come out until 2007. There again they are showing that they are followers and not innovators. It is too bad that so many people are forced to use Windows because there are other alternatives out there, MacOS X being the best for normal users. Maybe all those that follow Microsoft will discover that there are greener pastures sometime between now and 2007. Otherwise the rest of us smarter computer users will have other cool things to play with by the time that Microsoft finally "innovates" and catches up.