OneNote in your PocketNovember 2, 2009 at 11:36 am | Posted in Collaboration | 6 Comments
Tags: cloud, iPhone, Microsoft OneNote, MobileNoter
In a previous blog entry I described my experiences using the beta version of MobileNoter to access my Microsoft OneNote notebooks from my iPhone, while out and about. Remarkably, the development team had managed to include everything planned for the first production release in the beta and it had proven very stable and (at least in my opinion) extremely useful.
So, it comes as no surprise that the release of v1.0 (which is currently in review for the iPhone Appstore and is expected to launch in around 2 weeks time) contains more features, taken from the beta testers’ wish list. You’ll find all the details of these new features in the MobileNoter development blog, so I’ll just point out the highlights:
- Better use of iPhone features (landscape mode and swipe to delete quick notes);
- Better implementation of the OneNote structure, including Section Groups and Sub-pages.
However, I’m particularly pleased to see some enhancements to the solution’s security features. Firstly, both the iPhone app and the Windows sync client will optionally support encryption of data at rest on the MobileNoter servers. AES-256 encryption is offered with a symmetric key which must be entered into both components. As always with symmetric encryption systems, the devil will be in the detail of how to manage the shared secret. The second feature implements an optional pass code in order to be able to access the iPhone app. While I see and support the logic of providing protection against someone accessing data on a lost, stolen or even unattended iPhone, I have a concern over the implementation. The screen shot shows that the app is expecting a 4 digit numeric-only pass code. Based on the PIN used to secure our use of ATMs, this only gives 9,999 unique combinations. This is generally considered enough to protect access to an ATM where the time to enter each combination is significant and the machine (and the intruder) are in plain sight. However, a lost or stolen iPhone can be attacked off-line, with no witnesses. So, the utility of this protection depends on whether intruder lock-out is implemented. Then there’s the question of how do you reset intruder lock-out if you make a mistake? A simpler solution would be to forego some of the capabilities of the iPhone’s UI and just offer a text box, which masks entries and gives no clues as to length or composition. Do security and usability always have to be a zero sum game?
The final point to note on the upcoming release is that it will require payment of a subscription. Comments on the development blog have criticised this decision, but the MobileNoter team (rightly in my opinion) point out that they have to maintain the servers and storage to implement the solution. Unlike the development costs for the two software components, which can be apportioned over the predicted number of users, these infrastructure costs are both variable and recurring.
For those that really object to the subscription model, a variant is planned for the near future, which will link directly over wi-fi between the iPhone app and the Windows sync client. This will be offered for a onetime payment.
Personally, I think the small cost ($15 per year) is well worth paying for the utility I get from this solution, especially since this includes free support and upgrades. There are plans (still at an early stage) to make this work with cloud storage solution, like Microsoft’s Live Mesh. That’s more than enough to keep me involved to see how the solution evolves over time.
MobileNoter isn’t the only way to synchronise OneNote notebook content onto your iPhone, but to me it’s the simplest and most elegant – and that’s worth $15 of my money any day.