Sharpcast aims to synch digital media
Storing photos and other media files on multiple devices doesn't have to be a hassle anymore.
SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) - If someone had asked you five years ago how you kept track of your photos, you probably would have hauled out a trusty shoebox. Portable, intuitive, and easy to browse—what's not to like? And if you had any digital images at all, they sat on your computer's hard drive, and you probably could have counted them with one hand while the other held your trusty 35-mm. film camera.
Today, you probably have thousands of digital photos, some on your hard drive, some on your digital camera's memory card, some on your cameraphone, and others still hosted on Kodak (Research) Gallery, Snapfish, or Flickr. To get them all in one place, you'd have to spend hours downloading, uploading, tagging, and categorizing – and repeating the work for every place where you stash your photos. Unless you're the obsessively organized type, your digital photo collection is likely a quickly growing mess.
The premier product
That makes now the right time for a digital shoebox. A recently launched company, Sharpcast, based in Palo Alto, Calif. may have invented one – and ultimately, its software could extend well past photos.
Sharpcast was founded by Gibu Thomas and Ben Strong, who raised $3 million in venture funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Selby Venture Partners. They both previously worked at Bluelark Systems, a company bought by Handspring (now Palm (Research)) for its speedy mobile Web browser, now standard software on Palm's Treo smart phone.
Their first product, Sharpcast Photos, is going into testing mode in a few weeks and is slated for a public launch this spring, but Thomas and Strong have been showing it off recently in preparation for the company's debut.
Sharpcast Photos will be a subscription service that allows users to put their photo collection onto the Web and then access and modify those photos from any device they may be using. It goes beyond photo-hosting websites like Flickr, though, by automatically replicating a user's photos between their desktop, handheld gadgets, and Sharpcast's servers.
Write once, run everywhere
Take a picture on your cameraphone, for example, and it is quickly added to your photo collection both on the Web and on your computer desktop. Download a photo from your digital camera at home, and you can access it on your phone later. Change the caption of a photo using your phone keypad, and you'll see the change the next time you access the photo at home.
That gives you the ease of managing photos locally on your hard drive and the convenience of storing and sharing photos over the Web. It also provides a crucial backup in case your PC's hard drive crashes, taking your photos with it.
That's an obvious boon to those of us with thousands of photos stuck in various digital traps.
But for Thomas and Strong, the photo organizer is just a means for Sharpcast to demonstrate their concept of synching data across multiple devices. Their bigger goal is to extend that seamless synching across all kinds of media and devices, so ultimately you'll have access to all your updated data -- photos, music, documents, and video – regardless of what device you're using.
Such an invention has promise far beyond photos. The hassle of having data in disparate locations is universal – think of how many times you've emailed documents to yourself just to move them from work PC to home PC and back, with a plethora of versions clogging your inbox and desktop.
Ultimately, software like Sharpcast's could power a Web-based desktop, where you access files with the speed and flexibility of a PC, the convenience of a Web browser, and the assurances that you're working on the latest version and that you have a backup.
If Sharpcast can solve that problem, Thomas and Strong will have built much more than a better shoebox.
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