“I lost my girlfriend’s phone number.”

Never underestimate the value of a catchy title. This entry is about Longhorn, though—specifically the work we are doing in People and Groups to bridge contact lists--not only between application, but between devices.


My good friend Jeremy, a PM on the IE team, came into my office on Thursday asking if I’ve seen his phone. He couldn’t find it. The funny part: he had no way to get a hold of his girlfriend. The only place he had her number was on his phone. Ironically, I had a related conversation the day before. I was eating noodles at a local restaurant and a group of nice young ladies invited me to join them for dinner. When one of them pulled out her cell phone I immediately went into user research mode.


Me: How many people do you have on your cell phone?

Her: I had 120, but I just cleaned it out. Now I have about 100.


Me: What would you do if you lost your phone?

Her: That happened to me once and it was tragic. Now I type the important people into an Excel spreadsheet so I don’t lose them.


When people I know lose their mobile devices, they are usually more upset about loosing their address list than of loosing an expensive toy.


“But Kevin,” you might ask, “What does this have to do with Longhorn?”


Great question. The people on my team are doing a great deal of work to make sure mobile devices (most importantly cell phones) integrate in powerful and useful ways with the Longhorn People and Group platform.


Last month our Development Manager gave a talk at WinHec entitled Communications In “Longhorn”:  Telephony, Mobile Devices And HW/SW Integration. (PowerPoint slides)


The scenario target: One unified address book on all of my devices and communications applications.


I have contacts spread across three lists: my Outlook address book, my Messenger contact list, and my cell phone. They are not kept in sync. In the case of my phone, they are not backed up.


Wouldn’t it be cool if when I added a person to my contact list in Messenger I could easily add them to my cell phone? Wouldn’t it be great if loosing me cell phone didn’t mean I had to email all of my friends and ask them for their phone number (and hope you run into the people for whom you don’t have an email address?) Loosing your phone should be a great experience, because it gives you an excuse to get a Pocket PC Phone Edition.


Sadly, none of the members of the P&G sync team are blogging (yet). Free to post your comments, questions, and horror stories. I’ll pass them along.

Comments (11)

  1. Steve says:

    If this person was running one of the smartphones, this wouldn’t be an issue. I don’t see this as something the OS has to solve.

    I have a Treo 600, and my phone book goes into Outlook or anywhere else I want when I HotSync. Presumably the WinCE phones work the same way, if someone wants to go that way.

    I also know that with the Nokia phones, you can download a free app that lets you download (not hotsync) the phone’s databases via an IR connection. The other manufacturers may have similar solutions. Granted, this is one of those no-immediate-gratification kinds of things like making backups of your hard drive.

  2. Jerry Pisk says:

    Of course if you have all your stores synchronized it also means that if you accidentally delete somebody’s number you lose it for good, unless you have a paper based contact list as well, not synchronized with your other lists. And I can’t imagine that I would have all my work’s list on my cell phone (which I do in my Outlook address book). It wouldn’t even fit.

  3. a different Kevin says:

    Sounds like people want somethink like iSync in MacOS X. I’m amazed with all MS’s resources that they’re so far behind.

  4. Wiser says:

    Once again, this is wholesale theft by Microsoft of Apple computer’s intellectual property. iSync has been around for over a year, and MS will copy it in Longhorn in what…2008? 2009? LOL!

  5. Andy says:

    Well, I guess this is yet another benefit of using OS X and the Mac platform, and also another way that Apple proves to the world they are on the cutting edge and the rest of the world (Microsoft) just copies.

    OS X has had iSync available for a couple years. It’s a nifty little program that lets you quickly and easily sync data between any number of devices – your computer (address book), a BlueTooth cell phone (or some via USB), Palm-type device, iPod, even syncing between multiple computers for everything as well, including web browser bookmarks.

  6. Kuddler says:

    iSync is available now. No need to wait for Longhorn.

  7. Brendan says:

    Wow that would be cool… I can just barely imagine having one-click access to synchronize my computer with my phone and my ipod and online (to my desktop). And to be able to use this data from iChat or Mail… wow that would be a pretty handy OS. And you say I can get all that within 3 or 4 years??? Wow. That’s awesome. I’ve gotta get me one of those dual core 6GHz 2 Gigs of RAM machines so I can run this magical OS. WOW!


  8. Chris says:

    Hmmm…so Brendan copies Kuddler who copies Andy who copies Wiser who copies a different Kevin. Big deal, everyone builds on top of everyone else.

    It’s not like Apple invented the idea of synching data across devices. Windows 2000 has had IntelliMirror roaming profile synchronization, Windows XP had sync folders, ActiveSync synched everying…blah…blah…blah. The real question is what problems are there to be solved and the original Kevin’s looking to build on data and experiences to to do it well.

    I guess one of the data points is that Apple has some synch functionality that upon discussion tends to bring out the sarcastic and vitriolic sides of its customers. Longhorn should try not to agitate its users in the same way 😉

  9. Brendan says:

    My point’s not that Apple "Invented" syncing (although a couple of the other posters sound like that) but the "Gee Whiz Golly!" Tone of this article makes you laugh when what’s being pined over is an old (over a year) and standard feature of OS X.

    "Wouldn’t it be cool if…" and "Wouldn’t it be great if…" should be followed by such phrases as:

    I won a million dollars

    The sweedish bikini team offered me a job as their oiler

    I did something that expanded the bounds of current computer operation

    Not things like:

    You could buy bread at most every supermarket across the country

    You can sync your bluetooth phone with your computer saving hours and hours and thumb sprains

    You could access your contact information from chat clients, email clients and your phone.

    The fact that he’s not even hyping a _CURRENT_ product, but something that may or may not make it into an OS that may or may not come out in the next couple years and talking about it like it’s an earth-shattering idea… a glimpse into the possible paradise of the future… and it’s already available and has been for sometime, well, that earns some derision.

    But let’s not get side tracked here… the real bombshell of this blog post was that a microsoft engineer was acknowledged by some lovely ladies. That’s just insane. Wonder if "nice" and "young" are held to the same high standards that "secure", "intuitive" and "stable" are.


  10. B.Y. says:

    Kevin, you’re suffering from priority inversion here. You should really be blogging about what you did to get a group of nice young ladies to invite you to join them for dinner.

  11. Chris_S says:

    Let’s see:

    1. Kevin is telling us this feature is coming to Longhorn. That’s great news for Windows users, as it seems currently Windows does not do this so well.

    2. We hear that Mac OS does this already. That too is great, but old news if you own a Mac, of course. However, most Windows users don’t own Macs, so for the majority out there, point (1) is the case, making Kevin’s post useful.

    3. Like all ideas, there’s room for evolution and improvement – perhaps some readers (maybe Mac users?) here may have suggestions. Now that sort of info would be real useful, it might even improve the product (Mac or Windows!) whereas bitching about ‘my OS got there first’ isn’t really going to make a difference…

    4. And that’s about it. I’m sure it would be possible to draw up a laundry list of features that Mac has but Windows not, and then visa versa. And even features that Mac has and Longhorn doesn’t. And features that DOS has and Mac/Windows/<YourFavouriteOSGoesHere> doesn’t…

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