I've been involved in a discussion on one of my mailing lists about the future of HotSync on the Palm OS. I had an idea for an ideal solution, based on my own thoughts and some comments I'd read a few months back on this same mailing list.
Here's the idea: what if the Palm device could display the internal and external memory spaces as hard drives, just like a thumb drive? There are already 3rd party utilities that can provide this functionality for both PCs and Macs, but I feel this should really be a standard feature on Palm devices. Maybe the stock mounting capabilites of a Palm OS device could be basic, allowing 3rd party developers to add features (like Missing Sync's hooks into iPhoto and iTunes on Macs).
Further, what if your Palm OS device had a small web server burnt onto the ROM of the device (or installed in RAM) which could parse the native Datebook, Address Book, To Do and Memo XML files resident on the Palm device? The mini web server could parse and display your data in any web browser as an editable/viewable web page, much like exported iCal calendars.
So, rather than syncing your data, an average use might look like this: plug your Palm device into your desktop or laptop (or any PC/Mac) into a USB port. Or, connect via WiFi or Bluetooth if you prefer. Optionally there could be a security feature here, so you'd need to enter a username/password to access your device.
Your Palm handheld would appear on the desktop of the computer as two hard drives: one for the Palm internal RAM and another for the SD card. Here you could drop native Office files onto the SD card device for editing with DocsToGo or Quickoffice, or manage your MP3 files, photos and so on. PDB files for the Palm could be dropped right onto the Palm "drive" rather than installed through a conduit.
If you wanted to check your calendar or contact list, just fire up the web server app and your calendar information would appear in a new browser window. Here you could view information and make direct edits to the actual databases, so they're in place on the device already.
Now, why not build this tiny web server to accept 3rd party plugins? This would allow developers to let the web server directly access their app's databases via the web browser.
Maybe to help battery life, the server could be set to turn off the Palm device's screen after a short period time (just like current MP3 players do) while the device remains active for transfer for a specific period of time (5-15 mins).
Another option: make access to the Palm OS device "passive" like FTP. In other words, if the Palm OS device shuts down after say 15 minutes, making a change in the browser window, or on either of the drive images to the native files would "wake" the Palm device up.
By having a small web server and the Palm device acting as a drive when plugged in or within range of a WiFi/Bluetooth enabled machine, HotSync could be avoided altogether.
Do you think this would work for you? Or are you happy with HotSync?
Have a great Easter weekend!