The Year In Review

2011 was a big year for CompanionLink. We added numerous new features to our mobile CRM app, DejaOffice, while surpassing 100,000 active installations globally. We rebuilt our website from the ground up to make it even easier to find the sync solution you need. We released CompanionLink 5 with new features and a refreshed interface. And we’ve released new software, as well – CompanionLink for Windows Live.

But 2011 wasn’t just a big year for us – it was a big year for mobile technology! All year long, we worked hard to support some of the best phones and tablets yet: from the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S to the DROID Bionic, DROID Razr, Galaxy S II, and Galaxy Nexus to name just a few!

While the past year has certainly kept us busy, we’re not taking a break anytime soon! In fact, 2012 is already shaping up to be our biggest year yet. What can you expect from us in the coming year? A completely revised look for DejaOffice, an entirely new cloud sync service, support for even more great phones and tablets (think the rumored DROID 4 and iPad 3), and CompanionLink 6! We can’t go into the details on these things just yet, so be sure to watch the blog for updates!

All of us at CompanionLink want to thank you for helping make 2011 a great year. As you head out this weekend to ring in 2012, we wish you a safe and happy New Year. See you in 2012!

Sony Shutting Down The Sony Ericsson Sync Service

Image Credit: WikipediaSony recently announced that it is shutting down its in-house Sony Ericsson sync service at the end of the year. In their announcement, they suggest exporting your contacts and importing them into Google for future use. Google works with all Android devices, which is where Sony devices seem to be headed.

While this option should work well for some users, we recognize that not all of Sony’s customers will want to store their data on Google’s servers. For those people, CompanionLink has another option.

CompanionLink is able to sync contacts, calendars, tasks, and memos to your Sony device. We support popular contact managers like Microsoft Outlook, Palm Desktop, Lotus Notes, and many others.  And we offer a variety of sync methods, as well as our free Android app, DejaOffice, for managing your data on the go. CompanionLink also offers free phone support. If you ever get stuck with your sync, just give us a call – we’re here to help!

The latest version of CompanionLink currently supports all Sony phones and tablets running the Android OS, and we intend to continue supporting new Android-based Sony devices as they are released. Should you ever upgrade to a new phone that doesn’t happen to be a Sony, rest assured your data will come with you. We sync with Android, Apple iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and more.

If you’d like to try CompanionLink as an alternative to Google Sync, head over to www.companionlink.com/android and download a 14-day free trial!

A Fresh New Look

Today, we’re excited to unveil our fresh new website. We’ve completely redesigned the look and feel, and we think it’s a big improvement! Not only that, but we’ve focused on making it even easier to get around. From the “Help Me Choose” widget on our home page to the brand new product pages to our handy “Getting Started” page, the new website was built to get you the information you need quickly, easily, and, quite frankly, beautifully!

So take a few minutes to check out the new site and let us know what you think! Leave your thoughts in the comments below or send us a note at marketing@companionlink.com!

CompanionLink Makes The Inc. 5000

Image Credit: Inc.CompanionLink recently earned the position of #2,057 on the 2011 Inc. 5000 list. The Inc. 5000 highlights the fasting growing private companies in the United States. To earn a spot on the list, a company is required to have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2007 as well as be based in the United States, privately held, for profit, and independent.

We’re thrilled, and honored, to be featured on this list. The past few years have shown amazing growth, not just for CompanionLink, but for the entire mobile industry. Looking back to March 31, 2007 – the qualifying date set by Inc. – the iPhone had not even made it’s way into the public’s hands and Android was entirely unknown to the masses. In just a few short years, we’ve all come a long way!

Looking forward, we’re excited for the future. We’re committed to enhancing mobile productivity on all the latest devices, whatever they may be!

My HP Prediction: HP Moves to Selling Android Devices Now That They Are Killing webOS

This could (really) mark the end of the road for Palm’s long and fragmented legacy. Today, HP announced they would kill development of webOS tablets and phones in the near future. Palm’s long legacy from PalmOS to webOS – spanning the past 15 years – may now finally rest in peace.

So, is HP still interested in mobile technology?

In their press release, HP said they plan to “continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.” I think this means more than discussing it over a few meetings. I think they are implying something more sinister like, “We’re going to play the Android OS game now.”

HP paid $1.2 billion to acquire Palm webOS and Palm’s patents. They obviously planned for this day when webOS would die on its own. I believe that HP will take the UI from webOS and enter the Android OS manufacturing game. They bought Palm for the patents and their UI. HP will land running with a webOS UI that works rather well from a consumer standpoint. People never had issues with the UI and experience. In fact, they actually liked it. It was the most fluid mobile experience next to iOS. Instead, the lack of a meaningful app store with development partners vested into their ecosystem is what led what to Palm’s demise.

Look for HP to announce that they are entering the Android OS circus by 2012. Footnote: I’ve wrong before.

Study Shows Computers Are Here To Stay – But Are They Really?

Tablets won’t be replacing computers any time soon.

At least according to a recent study by Robert W. Baird & Co. 83% of consumers surveyed said that they could not do without a computer for the foreseeable future. According to consumers, tablets are cool. They’re fun. They’re wildly popular. But, for the majority of users, they simply cannot replace a computer. Not in their current form, anyways.

When compared to a tablet or smartphone, what is it that makes the PC so indispensable to the vast majority of the population? It’s not a keyboard or mouse – tablets can accommodate traditional input devices such as these already. It’s not power. Well, not for most users anyways. Today’s tablets and smartphones can easily handle the average users’ needs. For those that need more, it’s only a matter of time before mobile devices catch up to traditional PCs in terms of processing power, RAM, graphics, and storage. So if it isn’t these things, what is it?

In my opinion, it comes down to the form factor and operating system. Tablets and smartphones are great on the go, but it’s hard to beat a 24” screen with a “desktop-optimized” operating system when you’re at the office or at home. If that’s the case, why can’t tablets and smartphones offer these features as well? They can.

We’ve said it before – computers as we know them are going extinct. Devices like the Motorola Atrix and the Asus Transformer already offer tools for attaining the “desktop experience” from your mobile. Soon, many more mobile devices will offer the ability to dock to the traditional monitor, keyboard, and mouse setup. Your “computer” will actually be just a shell powered by your mobile device.

So 83% of consumers are in luck – they won’t have to go without a computer in the foreseeable future. What they may not realize, however, is that their computer will, in fact, be a tablet or smartphone.

Is CompanionLink Part of the Google Tax?

Img Credit: The Globe And Mail

Does Google Apps come with “hidden fees?” That’s what Tom Rizzo of Microsoft indicates in a recent blog post about the hidden costs of Google Apps. In fact, he refers to the extra costs as the “Google Tax” – the costs one would incur if they started using Google Apps to manage email, contacts, calendar, tasks, desktop publishing, and document management.

It’s no secret that many people are searching for a replacement for Microsoft Office. What’s most interesting, perhaps, is that they aren’t actually switching. In fact, Microsoft’s findings show that 9 out of 10 people use Google Apps in conjunction with Microsoft Office; not as a replacement for Microsoft Office. The “Google Tax,” however, still applies. Microsoft mentions CompanionLink as an example of a third-party application that is required if two-way synchronization between Outlook and Google Apps is desired. CompanionLink is part of the Google tax, claims Microsoft in a white paper they published.

Under the scenario where Google Apps is used in conjunction with Microsoft Office, CompanionLink is, in fact, a key component of the Google Apps ecosystem. CompanionLink allows people to keep their Microsoft Outlook contacts and calendar in sync with Google Apps. In fact, CompanionLink supports any Google, Gmail, or Google Apps account – paid or free.

Arguably, people using paid Google Apps services don’t need to use CompanionLink. Google offers a tool called Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook as part of any paid edition of Google Apps. If you’re on a free edition of Google Apps or using a free Google or Gmail account, you don’t have this option and need to look at 3rd party software like CompanionLink.

Even with Google’s tools, however, paying customers are offered forum-based support only. To some degree, this makes sense – they are a cloud-based company, after all. Phone or email support may not fit the cloud model.

This is where CompanionLink really shines.

In addition to numerous advance features, CompanionLink provides both email and US-based phone support. CompanionLink guarantees the synchronization between Google and Microsoft Outlook works on day one and day 365.

So, is CompanionLink a part of a “Google Tax?” Maybe. But we feel strongly that the ability to pick up the phone and talk to someone is, on its own, well worth the cost of admission (which, by the way, is a one-time license fee of $49.95).

Android Fragmentation: A Real Problem or A Hyped Non-Issue?

If there’s one topic surrounding the Android OS that comes up time and time again, it’s the issue of fragmentation. With so many devices and variations of the OS, developing for Android can be difficult. Before deciding if this is a real problem or simply a non-issue, let’s take a step back and define what we’re talking about.

Put simply, Google developed the core code for Android and has allowed device manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung, and HTC to create custom variations of this code. Google likes this because it gets their OS on a wide variety of handsets. The device manufacturers like this because the bulk of the software work is done for them and they can focus on customizing the OS. End users like this because they have a plethora of choices, all with the same basic features that they’re looking for. Developers, on the other hand, aren’t as keen about the whole situation.

Back in October, the popular Twitter client, TweetDeck, shared some information regarding the variety of devices and OS’s that their app was currently running on.

Img Credit: TweetDeck

At first glance, there are quite a few OS versions to support. That said, looking at it differently you could conclude that a good 80% of users are on Android 2.1 and above. If you write an app to support OS 2.1 and higher, you can expect it to work on the majority of Android handsets with very little issue, right? Well, maybe. For some applications, this is entirely true.

For others, however, writing an application that works is far different than writing one that works properly. With all the custom variations of the OS, an application may not behave as expected. If you’re a developer writing for Android, guaranteeing that your app works on all Android device means buying dozens of devices to test it on. For most developers, this simply isn’t feasible.

I think we can all agree that fragmentation on the Android platform exists. So the question becomes “is it a problem?” In my opinion, almost. What I mean by this is that unless it’s addressed, it could spiral out of control to the point that it simply isn’t manageable. It may get to the point that certain apps only work on certain devices. Want to play Angry Birds? Get a Samsung phone.

That said, I don’t think it will get that far. In fact, Google has already released a tool to help curtail the issue, and they recently partnered with manufacturers to help ensure devices are kept up to date. Is it enough? Maybe for now, but it’s not a complete solution. So how does Google minimize the imminent fragmentation problem while maintaining the openness that many of us love about the Android platform? Well, that’s the big question, now isn’t it?

Why All Sprint Customers Should Go Sign Up For Google Voice

Google recently announced complete integration between Google Voice and Sprint phone numbers. In my opinion, this is huge news. Sprint customers will be able to link their number to Google Voice and instantly take advantage of all the great features that Google Voice offers. This all works seamlessly, without requiring an app of any kind on the phone.

As a Sprint customer using Google Voice, you’ll be able to forward calls to other phones, take advantage of voicemail transcriptions, send (and archive) texts online, make calls from your Sprint number via Gmail, and more. Having such easy and ubiquitous access to your call history, text messages, voicemail, and more can be a huge productivity boon. For some time now our phones have been able to augment our computer use. It’s about time our computers truly do the same for our phone use!

If you’re a Sprint customer ready to integrate with Google Voice, head over to http://www.google.com/googlevoice/sprint/ to get started. If you’re on one of the other networks (like myself), well, you’ll have to wait patiently and hope that the other carriers follow suit!

Do You Own Your Data?

If Google were to completely shut down right now, would you lose anything? There’s no doubt that many of use would lose thousands of important contacts, calendars, emails, and more! In fact, many of us would be left digitally crippled, with irreplaceable information suddenly gone.

Of course, nobody is expecting this to happen. Then again, 3 years ago few Sidekick users would say they expected their service to disappear either. Unfortunately, T-Mobile recently confirmed that on May 31st all Sidekick services will, in fact, be shut down. When this occurs, Sidekick users will no longer have access to the cloud-based system that defined their devices. Users will no longer be able to access their contacts, calendars, notes, and more. Of course, T-Mobile will be offering solutions for migrating this data to other devices, so all is not lost. However, the news brings up an important point: Owning your data is crucial!

While this may not have been true 3 years ago, I’d be willing to bet that many Sidekick users have come to expect this news more recently. Gmail users, on the other hand, don’t expect to lose their data at any time. But that is exactly what happened just a few days ago. Thousands of Gmail users woke up to an empty inbox. While their data has since been restored (thanks to Google’s redundant backup system), many were without access to important information for days. A hit like that can have a serious effect on your productivity, especially if you rely on services like these for work.

All this said, I don’t want to say cloud-based services are bad. On the contrary, I believe they can be amazingly useful. What is bad, however, is entrusting them with the only copy of your data, because at that point it’s not really your data! In order to access it, you need to be connected to the cloud. In the event of service downtime, you are without access to your data. If you can’t access something when you want to, do you really own it?

Whether you decide to simply back up the information or sync your data to another source, I highly recommend taking the steps necessary to make a copy of your cloud-based data. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but if you do you’ll be extremely grateful for the offline copy! So what are you waiting for? Choose to own your data!