SyncML (Synchronization Markup Language) is the former name (currently referred to as: Open Mobile Alliance Data Synchronization and Device Management) for a platform-independent information synchronization standard. Existing synchronization solutions have mostly been somewhat vendor-, application- or operating system specific. The purpose of SyncML is to change this by offering an open standard as a replacement. Several major companies such as Motorola, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG, IBM and Siemens AG already support SyncML in their products, although LG do not support it in all their phone models, preferring to use their own proprietary syncing protocols such as LG Sync SPP. Philippe Kahn was instrumental in the founding vision for synchronization with Starfish Software, later acquired by Motorola. The founding vision as expressed by Kahn was: "Global synchronization and integration of wireless and wireline devices".

SyncML is most commonly thought of as a method to synchronize contact and calendar information (Personal Information Manager) between some type of handheld device and a computer (personal, or network-based service), such as between a mobile phone and a personal computer. The new version of the specification includes support for push email, providing a standard protocol alternative to proprietary solutions like BlackBerry.

Some products are now using SyncML for more general information synchronization purposes, such as to synchronize project task information across a distributed group of team members. SyncML can also be used as a base for backup solutions.

  • A fairly intricate and vague protocol specification has meant that there in general are major interworking problems with different servers against different clients.
  • In addition to the server address, user name and password, SyncML requires a database name to be specified for opening a connection. This database name is not standardized, and different servers use different names for the same service. E.g. one server might use card while another ./contacts for the contact database.
  • Only the over-the-air (OTA) interface has any degree of standardization, whereas synchronization over a local interface is not standardized, and requires specific solution for any device, if available at all. 

  • The popularity of mobile computing and communications devices can be traced to their ability to deliver information to users when needed. Users want ubiquitous access to information and applications from the device at hand, plus they want to access and update this information on the fly.

    The ability to use applications and information on one mobile device, then to synchronize any updates with the applications and information back at the office, or on the network, is key to the utility and popularity of this pervasive, disconnected way of computing.

    Unfortunately, we cannot achieve these dual visions:

    o Networked data that support synchronization with any mobile device

    o Mobile devices that support synchronization with any networked data

    Rather, there is a proliferation of different, proprietary data synchronization protocols for mobile devices. Each of these protocols is only available for selected transports, implemented on a selected subset of devices, and able to access a small set of net-worked data. The absence of a single synchronization standard poses many problems for end users, device manufacturers, application developers, and service providers.

    SyncML is a new industry initiative to develop and promote a single, common data synchronization protocol that can be used industry-wide. Driving the initiative are Ericsson, IBM, Lotus, Motorola, Nokia, Palm Inc., Psion, Starfish Software. Additional companies are being recruited to join and participate.

    The SyncML initiative recognized the worldwide need for one common data synchronization protocol. With the industry-wide proliferation of mobile devices and the evolution toward mobile devices as the major means of information exchange, remote synchronization of data will be of integral importance. The SyncML initiative, officially supported by well over 200 device manufacturers, service providers and application developers, is currently developing and promoting an open global specification for mobile data synchronization.