An open-source native iPhone application was launched on Thursday. It promises to wirelessly synchronise contacts from Microsoft Outlook to Apple's eagerly anticipated handset.
The plug-in was created by Funambol, an open-source mobile application server project which was started in 2001. As well as adding contacts from Outlook, the plug-in also allows synchronisation with Yahoo Mail, Google Mail, Gnome Evolution (a groupware application for Gnome) and servers using the SyncML standard. The latter is already supported by phone manufacturers including Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson.
Contact synchronisation on the iPhone currently requires hooking up the device to iTunes with a cable. Funambol claims that its application allows the action to take place over Wi-Fi or via the cellular Edge network used by iPhones.
"Open networks and devices are on the rise and are transforming the mobile industry," said Funambol's chief executive Fabrizio Capobianco. "The Funambol open-source community has been operating at this pace for years and is delivering innovation that gives people access to features they otherwise wouldn't have."
The main developer of the plug-in was Funambol community member Patrick Ohly, who extended the SyncEvolution tool to access the iPhone's contact data. He described SyncML as the "obvious choice" for the task because it was a "well-established, open standard for data synchronisation".
Ohly added that the current lack of an iPhone software development kit (SDK) — it is expected early next year — had made it difficult for users to access their contact lists. Funambol says it will add calendar and push-email synchronisation to its plug-in when the SDK is released.
Although the iPhone is targeted at the consumer market, it is expected that its popularity will inevitably bring the handset into use in businesses. The security implications of this are not yet totally clear, although some experts have suggested that the more open approach adopted by Google's Android mobile platform might make that environment more secure.