Jan 13, 2009

Tech - Palm's webOS Manages Scattered Personal Data

Jennifer LeClaire

Palm's new operating system is making waves in the mobile arena. When Palm debuted the new Palm Pre last week, it also unveiled the Palm webOS mobile platform.

While the initial buzz surrounded the hardware and operating system, it's the new information-management system that has analysts talking about this week. Synergy is a key feature of webOS that brings information from all the places you store it into one logical view. That means no tracking multiple calendars, contacts or messaging applications.

"Palm products have always been about simplifying lives and delivering great user experiences," said Ed Colligan, Palm president and CEO. "webOS and Pre bring game-changing simplicity to an increasingly mobile world by dissolving the barriers that surround your information. It's technology that seems like it's thinking ahead to bring you what you care about most -- your people, your time, and your information -- in the easiest and most seamless way."

Combining Contacts

Synergy has a feature called "linked contacts." It offers a single view that links contacts from the various e-mail and social-networking platforms you use. For example, if you have the same contact listed in your Outlook, Google and Facebook accounts, Synergy recognizes they're the same person, links the information, and presents it to you as one listing. If you update a contact on your webOS device, it will also will be updated in your various accounts, whether on a personal computer or on the Web.

Synergy also offers layered calendars. You can view events for work, family, friends, sports teams, or other interests in one view or see them individually at a glance. And combined messaging lets you see all your conversations with the same person in a chat-style view, even if it started in an instant message and you want to reply with text messaging. You can also see who's active in a buddy list.

According to Michael Gartenberg, vice president of mobile strategy at Jupitermedia, Synergy is the most interesting aspect of the Pre and it demonstrates Palm's understanding of what people want in a mobile platform: The ability to consolidate different information stores across the various parts of their lives -- business and personal.

"Synergy seems to do a pretty good job consolidating all of my contact information into one entry," Gartenberg said. "This idea of centrally synchronizing and organizing contact information in this way is kind of revolutionary, something that no one has done before. The key is good synchronization. If you control the synchronization of these data stores, in many ways you control the world."

Managing Life

Behind the scenes, applications are seamlessly connected to the Web and always active, ensuring you have the most up-to-date information. The webOS lets you manage multiple activities in multiple applications and flip from one to another the same way you might flip through a deck of cards. The OS also offers universal search.

When important things come up or updates arrive, you'll receive notifications that Palm promises are unobtrusive. For example, if you receive a text message or e-mail, a scrolling notification bar at the bottom of the screen lets you address it right away or leave it until later.

"Palm has given a lot of thought to this. Palm has always had a very deep understanding of how mobile differs from the desktop," Gartenberg said. "It looks like they are applying everything they've learned over the years into this release and I think they understand, perhaps more than anyone else, how much is at stake with this release."

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