sharpcastlogo.bmpSharpcast, a Palo Alto company, is developing one of the more enticing software products around. Today it has released a notable photo feature, that shares, syncs and backs up your photos from multiple devices.

First, some background on Sharpcast. It grabs the attention because it’s working toward that killer application we’ve been looking for.

It is not there yet, but here is its vision: If you create document • be it a Word document, a pdf, a photo or video • Sharpcast will save it automatically to an online backup • in the background, without you having to do anything. And it syncs your edits, real-time, with any device you want it to. If you’ve downloaded Sharpcast on your phone, for example, edits you make to documents on your phone are synced everywhere else too • with your PC, your work PC, and the online version too.

Similarly, if you are away from home, you can edit documents online from another computer, and Sharpcast will sync these changes with your home desktop (and work desktop, if you want). If your PC is turned off, everything will sync once you turn it on. If you’re working on your PC offline, it will sync your edits once you go online again. Professionals using Microsoft Exchange email are familiar with this, because that works in a similar way — but only with email.

Democratizing this across all documents and devices isn’t trivial; heavyweights like Cisco and Microsoft have been talking about this vision for some time.

Sharpcast, however, is releasing each of its components in excrutiatingly small pieces • teasing us. Which is why we pressed chief executive Gibu Thomas about what is taking so long, and why he has gotten sidetracked with offering what turns out to be an elaborate photo feature (explained below). Gibu said the photo feature is a great way to showcase Sharpcast’s potential, becuase it does everything we mentioned above, and more. Alas, we’ll have to wait for the other stuff.

Today, Sharpcast launches strictly with photos. And it has gotten fancy, with sharing. Once you’ve downloaded the Sharpcast software (see here for download), you can create a “group album” and invite your buddies by email to be a part of it. Then, if you add a photo to your album while on your desktop, the photo shows up automatically on your friends’ version -• on their desktop, or on their phone, online, wherever they access it. They don’t need to have Sharpcast downloaded for this, because the email you send them takes them to a Web page. Sharpcast demoed the product for VentureBeat. We’ve also tinkered with the product, and it’s smooth.

The photo feature has a live-chat function, so you friends can communicate about the photos as they’re synced (they need to have Sharpcast downloaded for this, though). It allows for comments on the photos too. Of course, Sharpcast has a widget too, so you can post these group albums to your blog.

Note: For the launch, the mobile phone compatibility is limited to Windows phones.

Most of this is free. With the free plan, however, photos are stored at full resolution for only 30 days. After 30 days, photos are resized to 1600 x 1200 resolution, still decent enough for print. For $5.99 per month or $64.95 per year, Sharpcast provides full-resolution backup.

Sharpcast’s technology is based on its own network sync protocol, and the photo sharing uses java/AJAX. Sharpcast’s chief technology officer, Ben Strong, designed the early Blazer mobile web browser.

The company began work in 2004, and is backed with $16.5 million from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Sigma, and Selby Venture Partners.

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