Monday, December 17, 2012
How Younity Is Unifying Your Files Across Devices, with Erik Caso
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
If you're like the typical device user today, you've got a smartphone, laptop, desktop, not to mention a dozen cloud accounts where you're storing your documents, music, video, and other files. How do you track where those files are? And how do you make sure you can access those files from anywhere? How about if it didn't matter where you stored those files, and they were available from anywhere? Entangled Media, one of the startups out of the current class at MuckerLab, has developed Younity (www.getyounity.com), a service which hopes to do just that--make your files available from anywhere. We caught up with Erik Caso, the firm's CEO, to learn what the startup is trying to do.
Describe what Younity is all about?
Erik Caso: Younity creates a personal cloud for all of your files, built from your devices, and over time, your online services. You can use any device, and never think about where your file is.
What's different about Younity from all the other cloud sharing applications out there?
Erik Caso: Younity is a bit different, in that it creates a personal cloud. When you look at cloud solutions out there, the public cloud is very different from a personal cloud. With public, share storage, you are using public, shared storage where you're putting everything with everyone else's stuff, which makes your stuff available from that location and where you can access it from a device. What's different with Younity, is instead of creating another cloud and walled garden, we're actually incorporating the resources you already have, such as the storage on your devices, and over time, your other online services, photos, and documents. The goal is not to create one more, isolated solution, but to conform to the interest and services around each individual user.
Can you provide some more details on how that works?
Erik Caso: Enterprises like to use things like Amazon Web Services. We use AWS too, and those companies are able to use resources created for cloud storage and processing. Younity is not all that different, but we build it from your own devices. If you have a Windows laptop, a Mac, we can actually connect those devices, so that that they're inherently aware of each other. You can share those resources between both computers. So, for example, if you find you don't have enough storage on your laptop, we'll have your desktop do the heavy lifting. Ultimately, Younity takes all of the documents, photos, video, and music you have and unifies it across devices, connecting them in real time ways to each other, and sharing that continuously.
What's your background?
Erik Caso: I've been designing software for 16 years, and am attracted to difficult problems. I was consumerizing enterprise applications, but what I really wanted to do was commercialize consumer software. The idea is that we're context-based users now. I use my phone on the street, my tablet on the couch or in bed, and my laptop when traveling. I use my desktop when I need the screen real estate or processing power. I would be working on my iMac, and head out to a customer site, but I'd forget to sync things or put those files in Dropbox. I was looking for a solution to that. It's not about changing how devices work, because no one cares about devices. What we really care about is data. We don't want to worry about synchronizing things, we just want to use our devices or whatever screen is convenient.
Is the service available yet?
Erik Caso: Yes, it's available. We went into private beta in summer. The first thing we learned is that people never sync their mobile devices. They don't remember to. We found that people complain they just grab their mobile devices, and never think about changing their music, or getting those photos off their computer. We just released our first version, and you never have to plug in your phone or iPad into your computer to syncronize things. All of your files are available, without having to connect any of your devices.
How much will this cost?
Erik Caso: It's currently free, though we do plan on offering a premium solution. Over the next several months we'll be turning on a lot of what we've built, but not yet relayed to users. As we begin to understand what a user wants, needs, and what devices they are using, we may begin annual subscriptions for a very low price. What we're trying to do is build a platform which doesn't care about where your data lives, or if it's online, or offline. It can be on an online service, on your laptop, on your iPhone. We are looking to change the nature of data, so that it's not tied to a device ID, like a specific hard drive, or tied to an identity. Instead, all files will be available to anyone, whether it's on your phone, or online, or something like that.