Below: this feature doesn’t live here anymore. Kludgism comes to iSync.
Before Tiger, Apple had placed a lot of emphasis on the synchronization benefits of its .Mac service, which allows users to manage contacts, bookmarks and calendars across multiple Macs through a software tool called, logically enough, iSync. Now, in Tiger, when you open iSync and click on the .Mac icon, you get a message that says: “You no longer synchronize information across computers using iSync,” before instructing you to open your System Preferences.
Moving that functionality to a preference pane might make sense, but it seems to be part of a change that’s confused and ill-planned at its core. .Mac allows synching across multiple Macintoshes, but to get that same information (or most of it, anyway) onto your Bluetooth phone, as I do frequently, you still use iSync. (And that says nothing about the apparently sluggish pace with which the company has been updating its synchronization profiles for newer Bluetooth phones.) You also use iSync to get that information onto your iPod, oddly. But if you have an iPod photo, as I do, you use iTunes to synchronize your photo library to that device — huh? Also, don’t get me started on the lack of a coherent method for managing text notes for my iPod, or for synchronizing music libraries or FairPlay licenses.
Once and Future Synching Strategies
This resoundingly clumsy change in the interaction model is indicative of Apple’s master plan for data synchronization, which is to say that they may have one, but it’s in serious disarray. With Tiger, the company has laudably opened its .Mac synching technology to third party developers, but it has done so without immediate attention paid to maintaining a consistent user experience.
None of the roles of its three principal synching applications — .Mac, iSync and iTunes — can be neatly summed up or conceptually understood without a low-level familiarity with the preference controls of each. What’s more, the fact that critical functionality is hidden away in preference areas is often a sign of poor experience modeling, and that clearly holds true in this case. The next major revision of Mac OS X may yet bring a revamped iSync that unites all synchronization within a cohesive strategy, but until then it remains, for a platform blessed by Steve Jobs, uncharacteristically inelegant.