Nextbit, the secretive startup launched by former Googlers Tom Moss and Mike Chan, finally came out of stealth mode on the stage of Code/Mobile on Monday.
The company, which already raised $18 million in a round led by Accel and Google Ventures, has developed a service called “Baton” that allows users to store and sync all their mobile data online, including the state of the applications themselves.
What that means in practice is that you can, say, pick up that game of Angry Birds or half-edited photo exactly where you left off after switching from your smartphone to your tablet. In addition, a specific feature known as “Pass” allows you to immediately move a game, project or task to a nearby device, waking it from sleep mode and automatically launching the app at the same state.
“We live in a multi-device world, and yet it’s still too cumbersome to switch between our devices,” said Chan during the demo at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. “So, we’ve taken the cloud and deeply integrated it into the Android operating system itself to provide a seamless experience between your phone and your tablet without any effort from developers.”
A beta version of Baton is now available to users of CyanogenMod, an open source version of Android that allows users to unlock their phones. The company said the public release later this year will be on the commercial version of Cyanogen’s operating system.
In the near future, Japanese mobile carrier NTT Docomo plans to offer another Nextbit service that lets customers back up and restore their devices. Further down the road, Nextbit plans to roll out a limitless storage service designed to let users have all their photos and music available from the cloud, even if they won’t all fit on the device.
Baton is comparable to the Handoff features baked into Apple’s latest mobile and desktop operating systems, which allow people to easily trade tasks between devices, including making or receiving calls on their tablet or laptop. Somewhat similarly, Cast for Android allows users of Google’s mobile OS to view smartphone, tablet and desktop content on their TVs, at least if they bought and installed the hardware dongle.
The big difference in both cases is that Baton doesn’t require developers to support Nextbit’s technology — or even know that it is there. There are already plenty of Android and iOS apps that store your place in the cloud, but in those cases, the app makers have done the heavy lifting.
For now, the business model will be based on licensing deals with carriers and device manufacturers. But down the road, as it adds more services, the company expects to pursue a direct “freemium model” with consumers.
While the value of the service is clear, the question is: Is this a feature or a company? Apple is clearly already moving in this direction, and Google could easily enough incorporate these sorts of services if it chooses, which would seem to undermine Nextbit’s reason for being.
In an interview ahead of the conference, Google Ventures general partner Rich Miner, who joined the now 22-person company’s board after the firm invested in the Series A round, said of course it’s a company.
“Maybe over time some of these things might get incorporated at Google, but it doesn’t mean it will happen in the way that everyone wants it, or that it will be quick,” he said.
“There’s a roadmap of capabilities here,” he added. “It’s a bunch of ex-Googlers and bright people who have built a very sophisticated platform, and on day one are rolling out a collection of services.”
Also in an interview ahead of the show, Moss stressed that the company’s mission is much broader than the first set of services it has announced.
“I think it’s not contentious to say that eventually you should be able to walk up to any device anywhere and have access to all your stuff, in the state it’s in,” he said. “Our vision is this ubiquitous computing environment.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.