Idea: Synced Windows Instances Between Computers

I like having multiple computers but I HATE maintaining multiple computers. I wish I could completely sync my desktop and laptop as if they were the same exact computer just in a different form factor. I want the same files, same updates, same account, same settings, same software and games on both computers. I want them treated as if they were one. So here’s what I propose:

“Windows Full Sync” should have:

  • The option to sync on startup, logoff, shutdown or as soon as a file has been changed.
  • Ability to sync in the background while the computer is idle.
  • Sync through my local area network /or/ through the new 10 Gbps Intel Thunderbolt connection /or/ USB connection.
  • Sync:
    • My entire Windows User Account (system data excluded of course).
    • Software, Apps, Games, etc…
    • Files and folders.
    • Program settings and preferences.

Example:

So lets say I bought a new PC and Laptop with Windows 8 featuring “Windows FullSync”. On my PC:

  1. I would install any Windows security updates
  2. Update anti-virus to latest definitions
  3. Install Photoshop, Google Chrome, Steam, Thunderbird, VLC Player.
  4. Download 1,000 songs
  5. Rip Resident Evil the movie onto my hard drive
  6. Change my mouse settings, account settings, and enable encryption.

As soon as I connect my Laptop and set up FullSync with the PC (PC as the dominant source). After 12 minutes my Laptop would have:

  1. All Windows security updates are done
  2. Virus definitions are up to date
  3. Photoshop, Chrome, Steam, Thunderbird, and VLC Player installed and ready to be used with same settings as on my PC
  4. My 1,000 songs are there
    Resident Evil is there
  5. And my mouse settings, account settings, and encryption are the exact same way as on my PC

Why?

FullSync’s goal (if technically possible) is to take 1 instance of Windows and spread it over multiple computers because no one actually wants more than one “computer account” to maintain. Technically no one wants more than 1 computer. All of these things: Desktops, Laptops, Smart Phones, Tablets are computers. Think about that before you head straight to the comments and tell me how wrong I am. Think about it. No one actually wants to maintain more than one computing device. We all strive to buy the one computer that does it all, has everything, goes everywhere, and can handle anything. In the perfect world we would all have 1 shape shifting computer that could transform between desktop, laptop, smart phone, and tablet and you’d have only 1 user account. Realistically that’s not possible so we end up having multiple computers because different computer form factors (tablets, phones, desktops, laptops) are better at doing certain things. A laptop is not very powerful so I get a desktop, a desktop is not as mobile so I get a laptop, my laptop doesn’t fit into my pocket so I get a smart phone, my smart phone’s screen isn’t big enough so I get a tablet. I don’t actually want 4 different computers, each with different software installed, different files spread across them, different accounts, different stores, different settings, different operating systems. I want just one computer in 4 different forms. So “Full Sync” takes us a step closer to that.

If you WANT certain files to be different on certain machines you can manually set those settings, files, or folders to not be synced.

Legal implications:

  • Software companies would not be happy with you buying only 1 copy of of their software but using it on 2 different computers, unless they specifically allow you to do so.

Conflicts:

  • Not everything should be synced. Some things you would only want on one computer and not the other. How should this be decided and should we really burden the user to make these decisions?
  • Using both machines at the same time will obviously cause some problems because if you open the same file on both computers and make different changes to it, which file will overwrite the other when they get synced at the end? You would have to be prompted for each and every conflict.
  • Example: I open up Photoshop on both computers and change the settings on the PC copy of Photoshop to have certain shortcuts, preferences, and behaviors, and on the Laptop copy of Photoshop I change the settings to have different keyboard shortcuts, preferences, and behaviors. If Windows tries to sync them a conflict will arise and I’ll have to manually go in and tell it which setting to overwrite. Users will be forced to do this for every single conflict, which is another burden.
  • Windows itself can be developed to understand and handle system file conflicts, mergers, overwrites, etc… but other software won’t understand how to handle these conflicts unless specifically developed to do so.

Solutions to Legal and Technical Conflicts:

  • Solution 1: Only one computer can be used at a time.
  • Solution 2: Whatever setting or file you are altering on one machine automatically closes on the other machine so they can’t both be altered at once. You can only have 1 software instance in use at a time. No 2 copies of Photoshop opened at once, unless you purchased 2 separate copies of course.
  • Windows will need to know what to sync and what not to sync and with millions of different programs out there this may not be possible.

ROUGH Mockups of Sync at Computer Startup (before login):

The white shine in the sample above is animated. It moves from left to right to let the user know that syncing is in process.

 I wonder what Microsoft would think of this…