Just got done taking a quick look at today’s announcement of Adobe Carousel – their new cloud-based photo-syncing/sharing/editing app. Not sure I totally get the utility of it for me, personally – Dropbox gives me easy sync between all my devices already and I can’t imagine I’ll be doing a lot of image-editing on the fly. Your Mileage May Vary, of course.
But it got me to thinking about a piece of the storage/cloud issue that hasn’t really been well-addressed yet: The ability to sync some things locally but still have access to more things on an on-demand basis. In other words, I want to be able to have all my ‘favorite’ photos synched between all my devices – phones and laptops – and kept available as a local copy. (i.e. I want to be able to see them even if I have no network connection). But if I do have a network connection then everything else should be easily accessible as well.
Dropbox sort-of does this – they allow you to specify certain folders that aren’t synched to specific devices, but if you want to get to those non-synched folders you have to go into the clunky web interface. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just see those other filenames as if they were local files and if you clicked on them then Dropbox would transparently run out and grab them as requested? Maybe even have a local cache where the most recent ones are kept around until something newer flushes them? In other words, it would seem as if I have all of my files local, but some of them would just take a little bit longer to access.
And going beyond this sort of ‘dumb’ file synching (where all files are treated the same way), what I’d really love to see is a storage/sync tool that understands that photos are different from other file-types, and that often-times it’s perfectly acceptable to have a lower-resolution (or lower quality) version of the photo available instead. A 1 megapixel medium-quality jpeg version of an image is wayyyy smaller (like 99% smaller!) than a 16 megapixel original.
In other words, my ideal system would intelligently manage my photos so that everything is available at low resolution even if I have no network connection but if I am connected to the magical ‘cloud’ then it (transparently) will serve me the full-resolution image instead.
(The same thing conceivably applies to music as well of course. Let me keep a few GB of my favorite songs on my iPhone at full quality, but if I really want to listen to something obscure from the other 20GB of music I own then I can at least play a slightly degraded version of it.)
The key to all of this (and why it would ideally be something built into the operating system) is to make it as transparent as possible. Image viewing or sharing shouldn’t require me to keep track of whether I’m offline or not – they should just figure it out and do the best job they can at showing me the best quality version possible. Simple :-)
I’m seeing a lot of ‘cloud’ services pop up – and they’re all great if you’ve got a 100% reliable network connection behind them. But people, I’ve got AT&T – a 100% reliable network is, unfortunately, not something I’m familiar with…