There’s nothing like the season of goodwill to bring out the best in technology giants. In the case of Microsoft and Google, just when you might have thought they couldn’t find anything else to fight over, they’ve started slinging shots at each other over email and contacts synching.
Microsoft v Google
While the very public spat between Microsoft and Google's Motorola over patents could have industry-wide implications when a judgment is issued sometime next year, they have also found other areas that are probably not as significant on industry level to fight over too.
In this dispute it will be the user that ultimately loses out, and the exchanges between the two companies in respective blog posts really does look like the stuff of small time sharks. They are interesting nevertheless in the immediate impact the will have on users.
One such instance is the announcement by Microsoft that it is extending its free trial period of Office 365 for small businesses to 90 days, just after Google announced that new small business App users who sign up from January will have to pay US$ 50 per user per year.
Google, Exchange ActiveSync
Another spat that has just blown up this week is the announcement by Google that it is to end its support for Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), unless users want to pay Google for using Gmail.
The row follows an announcement in a Google blog post last week entitled Winter Clearing, that Google is shutting down Google Sync, a function that enables users of Gmail to sync their mail, calendar and contacts through Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync.
Exchange ActiveSync was first introduced in 2002 as a way to improve the email experience on mobiles and has been developing to keep up with the market, especially since tablets have become omnipresent in the workplace.
Writing on the Google blog Google Vice President of Engineering Venkat Panchapakesan explained what will happen:
Starting January 30, 2013, consumers won't be able to set up new devices using Google Sync; however, existing Google Sync connections will continue to function. Google Sync will continue to be fully supported for Google Apps for Business, Government and Education… In addition to Google Sync, we’re discontinuing Google Calendar Sync on December 14, 2012 and Google Sync for Nokia S60 on January 30, 2013. We’re also ending service for SyncML, a contacts sync service used by a small number of older mobile devices on January 30, 2013.
However, it's not that users won’t be able to sync in future, they will just have to use different protocols.
With the recent launch of CardDAV, Google says it is offering similar access via IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV, making it possible to build a sync experience using open protocols.
Microsoft has been quick to respond and has an equally brutal solution to Google’s move. Microsoft Senior Director of Product Management Dharmesh Mehta suggested that the simple answer to the problem is to shift entirely to the new Outlook.com.
Outlook.com with chat
This is not the first time in the past week we have seen Microsoft aggressively pushing Outlook.com as it tries to persuade users to move from Hotmail.
In his post, he says the move by Google will force users 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”.
Windows v iOS
However, there is more to this than meets the eye and extends beyond this single issue to the wider battle between Microsoft and Google.
Because iOS supports IMAP, CalDav, and CardDav, it means users who use Gmail on iPad and iPhone will be able to sync their data with little difficulty.
However, Microsoft's Windows Phone doesn’t support them meaning those that those who use Gmail on Windows Phone won’t be able to sync. How Outlook.com users will deal with that is not clear yet.