Syncing Or Sharing?

Steve Jobs recently had an interview at the D8 Conference. When asked about better syncing capabilities Jobs responded with:

No, what you’d like to do is share your library of media amongst your various devices. It’s not buying it on that device–you could buy it all on that device. It’s the sharing. You want to share your content that you’ve bought or somehow otherwise acquired amongst your various devices.

Today many people own several consumer electronic devices capable of playing/displaying their media, whether music, movies, photos or books. These devices act as the gateway for that piece of media–the media stays the same, it just materializes through the different devices. The devices themselves are not the owners of that piece of media. Your iPod doesn’t own your music collection–you do. The iPod only acts as an interface to that music.

This means that “syncing” really is the right word to use here. You don’t want to “share” music across your devices. Yes, technically you’re going to be making more copies of said music, and the next device is going to have that new copy on it; but all of these devices will have a single output: a device owned by the same person who bought the music.

Syncing should be completely seamless. It’s your iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad, and it’s your music, so you should easily access it through all of your devices. Why not do it completely over the air? Keep track of who bought what and then let them re-download the same items on any of their devices.

Valve, the creators of the Steam games platform, get it right. Any game you purchase on Steam is added to your account. Install Steam on any of your computers and you can re-download all your purchases. You don’t have to worry about backing up anything because Valve knows exactly what you own. The end user shouldn’t have to worry about storing backup copied of digital media, much less having to plug in wires to sync it across their devices.

July 2010