The market segmentation referenced above constrains consumer freedom of choice of platforms, applications, and service providers. The segmentation also constrains the reach of network service providers and server application vendors with respect to the number of clients they can support. Overall it limits the growth of mobile applications, as data synchronization is a key requirement of many mobile applications. The key purpose of SyncML is to define an open specification for data synchronization such that client and server applications can be developed independently. The SyncML Initiative targets the specifications to become the de facto standard for data synchronization through wide adoption of the open specifications and numerous conforming implementations. Applications on clients and servers that support SyncML and use SyncML conformant data formats will be able to synchronize with each other. In the ideal vision of SyncML, applications on any phone or handheld device can synchronize with corresponding applications on a server platform or another device. SyncML is primarily targeted and designed for remote synchronization between a mobile client device and a server, but can also be used for local synchronization and synchronization between networked devices.
The reader may be interested in a brief history of the SyncML Initiative. During early 1999, IBM® and Lotus were exploring ways to enable mobile applications that synchronized data with IBM databases and Lotus Notes. Clearly, as a provider of infrastructure software, IBM/Lotus wanted the ability to do the above in a way that worked with a large number of mobile clients, irrespective of the specific nature of the client. They strongly felt the need for an open synchronization standard. At about the same time, companies such as Nokia® and Ericsson® were exploring the issue of data synchronization in the context of Infrared Mobile Communications (IrMC) [IrMC00] and the Bluetooth™ Special Interest Group (SIG)[MB01]. Motorola/Starfish® was considering opening up its proprietary synchronization protocol. IBM/Lotus and Nokia together took the early lead in developing the SyncML Initiative and actively evangelized it in the software and telecommunication communities. With a draft of the specifications and substantial work performed in informal cross-company working groups, the SyncML Initiative was founded in February 2000 with Ericsson, IBM, Lotus, Motorola, Palm, Psion®, and Starfish as the founding sponsors. SyncML gathered momentum at a steady pace during 2000. The first version of the specification was released in December 2000 with a supporting reference implementation. In July 2001 the organization transitioned to an incorporated nonprofit entity to better respond to the needs of the growing data synchronization community. At the same time, Matsushita®, Openwave®, and Symbian joined as sponsoring members of the SyncML Initiative. In 2001, the SyncML Initiative enjoyed over 600 supporter companies, some of which are developing SyncML compliant products.
There are two other kinds of SyncML memberships besides Sponsor Promoter and Supporter. Becoming a Promoter member gives companies the ability to participate in the technical activities of the SyncML Initiative. Benefits of Promoter membership include input into the evolution of the specifications through the SyncML Initiative Technical Expert Groups, access to specifications and toolkits under development, early access to documents, tools, and specifications in advance of release to Supporters, and free license to the SyncML Test Tool.
Becoming a Supporter allows early access to review the specification and other related documentation. Further, Supporter membership gives one an opportunity to provide contribution and comments to the specification work and to participate in online forums where Supporter input is valued and welcomed.