Microsoft, Google Continue Sparring over ActiveSync

After Jan. 30, Google will be cutting the cord for new users of its online applications who use Exchange ActiveSync (EAS). The Search Behemoth made the announcement last December in a move that Microsoft found surprising.

How surprised Microsoft actually was is the subject of some speculation after some unnamed sources told The Verge that Google warned Microsoft on the q.t. that the move was coming months before it was made public.

Regardless of whether Microsoft was surprised or not, the company has reportedly begun scrambling to ensure that its faithful who purchase devices running Windows software after Google’s arbitrary deadline and want to use Google Web apps like Gmail and Google Calendar won’t be left out in the cold.

Microsoft has asked Google to extend ActiveSync support for another six months. That request appears to have fallen on deaf ears, as Google’s response to the plea has been silence.

Microsoft is also working on adding support for DAV to a future version of Windows Phone, its mobile operating system. DAV is an open source protocol for syncing information like appointments and contacts.

Part of Google’s reasoning behind dropping ActiveSync support is a desire to support open source protocols going forward. ActiveSync is a proprietary protocol that belongs to Microsoft, but has become a de facto standard because of its widespread use in business.

Although Google is terminating support for ActiveSync for new devices using the Search Giant’s services after Jan. 30 — a move that could be seen directed at putting a crimp in the growth of Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, a potential competitor to Google’s Android mobile phone empire — it will continue to support ActiveSync for devices that signed up for Google services before that date and for users of its commercial offerings.

It’s no secret that Google wants to gouge some of Microsoft’s enterprise market share for itself. Axing ActiveSync in the arena where the protocol holds a stranglehold on sync would be like Google cutting off its nose to spite its face.

From Microsoft’s point of view, it hasn’t supported DAV up to now for a simple reason: ActiveSync has been widely adopted, and it’s just a better protocol.
In a company blog following Google’s announcement, Microsoft Senior Director Dharmesh M. Mehta provided this analysis of the move:

“It means that many people currently using Gmail for free are facing a situation where they might have to degrade their mobile email experience by downgrading to an older protocol that doesn’t sync your calendar or contacts, doesn’t give you direct push of new email messages and doesn’t have all the benefits of Exchange ActiveSync.”

On a positive note, though, the move is giving Microsoft a marketing hook to flog its new Outlook.com webmail app and tout the benefits ActiveSync.

Microsoft main objection to DAV is it only supports the older email protocols IMAPI and POP. “POP and IMAP were designed decades ago, were considered state-of-the-art at the time, and are still used by millions of people,” Mehta explains.

“Both were created before mobile phones really even existed,” he continues. “To have a great email experience in 2012, a protocol needs to do more than just send and receive messages on a PC. It needs to work really well on a variety of mobile devices, to sync not only email but also your calendar and contacts, to do this automatically, and in a way that preserves battery life.”

Despite Microsoft’s strong feelings on the subject of DAV, it’s also showing it can be practical, too. As the smallest planet in the mobile universe, it can’t afford to gamble on losing potential users because it forced them to choose between a Windows Phone and Google Services.

Written by John P Mello Jr

John Mello is a freelance writer who has written about business and technical subjects for more than 25 years. He is frequent contributor to the ECT News Network and his work has appeared in a number of periodicals, including Byte magazine, PC World, Computerworld, CIO magazine and the Boston Globe

1 Comment

  1. JM · February 1, 2013

    Just for a change, Microsoft is the victim. I don’t approve Google’s practices, especially the fact that ActiveSync will be supported for commercial users, but I must note that usually Microsoft resorts to such tactics. Now it’s on the receiving end but unfortunately, so are its users.

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