November 25, 2009 | by Ed Clark
In a move that should take away one of the longstanding thorns for many Android business users, Beat Forster of Synthesis AG confirmed that his company is actively working on an Android SyncML client which should be released in Q1 or Q2 of 2010. Synthesis AG is a Swiss company that has been a leader in developing SyncML solutions since 2000. For those that don’t know, SyncML (Synchronization Markup Language) is one standard for syncing calendar and contact information on handheld devices in corporate settings.
What follows is a brief Q&A between Beat and me regarding Synthesis AG’s current work on the Android platform:
What is your role at Synthesis AG?
I’m a Managing Partner of Synthesis AG. I’m responsible for the Android development.
Do you have a timeline for releasing an Android SyncML client? How solid is this timeline?
Our main focus is currently on the SDK, as our key technology is the SyncML engine, which is embedded as native C++ library (based on the NDK) into the SDK. So our aim is to make sure that Android SyncML clients will be developed based on this SDK. The next version of the SDK (based on SDK/NDK 1.6) will be released this or next week.
We will also create our own Android SyncML Client. The first version will be available in Q1 or Q2 of next year. The current version under development is already able to sync contacts, including all fields supported by the Android contacts application–including photos (based on the 1.6 setup).
What is the purpose of the Android SDK you recently released? Are you hoping developers will create their own Android clients?
It’s more than a hope: We have already some third party contacts with interest in such development.
Why would Synthesis AG encourage others to make clients with the SDK, when your company is also planning to release its own client in the next few months? What is the advantage for the external developers and for your company?
Synthesis AG sees its position as mainly a provider of well-founded SyncML technology, not as a leader in writing user interfaces for several platforms. The license for using the Android SDK is not free and we usually restrict the URL to the customer’s internal SyncML service, so we think that these two segments (in-house customer development and our own client) will not compete too much. The advantage for third parties is to make their company branding for the user interface, based on a proven sync technology.
What is the anticipated pricing for your Android SyncML client?
It’s not yet fixed. As a rough estimate, it will be in a comparable region of the iPhone client’s price.
What versions of Android will your client support?
We’re currently targeting Android 1.6 for the first version. But of course 2.0 or later is in discussion, as it opens some possibilities because of the Sync Adapters. For this part, nearly everything has been completely redesigned in Android 2.0, however.
What initial features would the Android client support? How would it compare to the iPhone client?
As the Android client contains the same SyncML engine, the SyncML features are the same as in the iPhone client. The iPhone client has been under continous development for 1.5 years, so some features will not be available right from the beginning.
My understanding of the iPhone syncML client is as follows: Apple would not allow external applications to interact with the iPhone’s built-in calendar, so Synthesis built a program that is the calendar and sync tool in one. Is this true?
Yes, that’s exactly as it is.
Would Synthesis need to build the same kind of application for Android phones?
We hope that we don’t have to reprogram a calendar for Android! At the moment Google’s strategy concerning its calendar is not 100% clear. The calendar app seems not to be a standard part of the SDK, and the spec seems not to be open, but access seems to be possible, as a main difference from the iPhone API.
Thanks very much for your time!
UPDATE: Beat just let me know that the latest version of the Synthesis SyncML SDK for Android (1.6.1) has been released this afternoon.