World Does Not Revolve Around Exchange

22 Jan 2013

Exchange has been the epicenter of enterprise messaging. Its hold on the enterprise has actually been quite a feat considering email is among the most mature and most interoperable IT solutions. For a good chunk of recent history, Microsoft shared the throne with IBM's Domino server, but it's been slowly declining. Cisco attempted to expand WebEx into messaging, but withdrew it. There are plenty of other premises-based solutions, but none really grabbed significant market share.

As a result, Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) has become somewhat of a de-facto standard for interfacing with Exchange. EAS allows other systems and devices to synchronize mail, contacts, and calendar information with Exchange servers. Sure there are some standards, but why bother when EAS works so well?

Well it seems Google saw things differently. Last week I posted Google Sinks Sync which discussed Google's intent to kill EAS on Gmail next week. Gmail has supported EAS for quite some time - it synchronizes Gmail with Exchange - in fact, it does so better than Google can sync between its own calendars (more on that below).

Gmail isn't popular in enterprises, Google offers other solutions for the enterprise, government, and education. Google Sync is only going away for Gmail users, so it's not the enterprise but its employee personal accounts that will be impacted. Since iPhone and Android mobile phones support IMAP, CalDAV, and CardDAV - they don't require EAS to synchronize with Gmail. Google's intent was to punish Microsoft Phone users.

I thought that was to be the end of the story. Exchange and Gmail are popular, but Microsoft phones are not, and certainly Microsoft wasn't going to be bullied into supporting standards.

But the Verge reports that Microsoft is intending to add support for CalDAV and CardDAV to Microsoft phones. Evidently, Exchange isn't the only email system out there. Though this intent is unconfirmed, if it is true then Google got Microsoft to blink.

It is a strange game. If Microsoft did not address it, people that bought Microsoft phones would be frustrated with Microsoft for not supporting Gmail when it was Google that intentionally broke the solution by removing a service that works fine.

The sad part of the story is the Google solution isn't as good without Exchange. When I was on an enterprise Exchange system, I had my personal Gmail calendar synchronize with Exchange using Google Sync. I had selected personal contacts viewing my personal calendar and selected colleagues accessing my work calendar. Both views offered a single synchronized free/busy profile. When my work calendar moved to Google Apps, this synchronization (now between two Google calendars) was lost.

Google enables custom views - so when I see my business calendar I can also see my calendars overlapped - so I'm fine. But I now have unsynchronized free/busy profiles and people that only have access to one calendar no longer see the full picture. I'm tempted to move one of my calendars to Outlook just so I can get Google Sync back.


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