It seems the standard was built for corporate users, with the server-client architecture. To me, it seems obvious that phones should be able to sync data to each other. I guess everybody expects the hundreds of millions of "regular" mobile phones users to just lose their contacts when they get a new phone.
I have recently transfered contacts from a Samsung ?SGH-350? (a 3 year old samsung), and had to input that into a Nokia X-Press Music. Both phones had SyncML support, but now I understand that it could never work because I lacked a server. The mess increased as we had no Outlook installed (either Samsung's or Nokia's suite expected Outlook to be present). I solved it by writing some python to convert between the CSV formats. Worth mentioning that the Samsung refused to talk to Linux (i.e. Gnome Conduit).
In any case, that experience convinced me of how badly supported this kind of syncing still is.