Now There's No Excuse for Not Staying in Touch

Apple's Digital Hub strategy centers on connecting Macs to various portable digital devices -- something Apple calls "Mac to mobile." The catch is, synchronizing data on your Mac with PDAs, cell phones, and other digital gadgetry.

To that end, Apple introduced two new applications Wednesday -- iCal and iSync -- that it contends will tackle both challenges. These calendaring and synchronization applications, which require Mac OS X 10.2, will both arrive as free downloads in September.

Synchronicity

Apple has high hopes for iSync, the first utility to appear in the "i-Apps" line of products that has previously featured multimedia programs such as iTunes, iMovie, and iDVD. iSync is an all-purpose synchronization tool that syncs between Macs and mobile devices. Through Apple's .Mac services, subscribers will also be able to synchronize data between different Macs.

iSync works with Palms and the iPod -- allowing iCal calendars and Address Book contact lists to flow freely between your Mac and those devices. But perhaps the most intriguing addition to the Digital Hub family of products is a new breed of cellular phone.

The latest generation of cellular phones now offer wireless networking via Bluetooth, built-in calendars and contact managers, and the SyncML data-synchronization standard. iSync works with these phones to wirelessly synchronize your Mac's calendar and contact information with your phone.

"We are adding a phone to the Digital Hub," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said during Wednesday's keynote speech. "We think this is going to be a very big deal."

Mark Your Calendars

Apple's iCal displays multiple calendars in a single window that puts an aqua spin on the standard calendar interface: color-coded rectangles track different appointments and tasks on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

"Modern life requires multiple calendars," Jobs said. "You've got to have a way to see them if you're going to manage your life."

iCal features built-in Internet sharing, allowing users to share calendars over the Web. A Publish Calendar panel lets you publish a calendar on a Web server or via Apple's new .Mac services; co-workers, friends, and family members can then subscribe to that calendar -- viewing (but not editing) it through their own copies of iCal.

Other iCal features include built-in To Do list management, event notification via e-mail or text messaging to a mobile phone or pager, the ability to send standards-based e-mail event invitations, and a search tool for finding events, tasks, or names entered into iCal.

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