My name is Brandon Hoff and I am a Technical Product Manager here at Microsoft and have been working on Exchange for almost 10 years. Since the introduction of Outlook into the Office suite in 1997, I have come across my fair share of connectors (IBM, Novell, et al) which have attempted to provide a plug-in for their messaging platform to emulate the rich experience Exchange & Outlook provides for end users and IT alike.
Juan Carlos Perez (IDG) posted a story yesterday entitled “Google Apps Sync for Outlook Gets Mixed Reviews” which covers Google’s latest attempt to embrace Microsoft technologies as a way to buy a seat at the Enterprise vendor table. (Other examples: Licensing ActiveSync, ActiveDirectory Sync Tool, DocVerse acquisition with Office users)
Microsoft Provides Interoperability; Google Partially and Poorly Implements it
On the one hand, it’s good news that Google has embraced our Interoperability Principles to build the tool. On the other, it’s an effort that seems half-hearted. Bill Pray, an analyst at Burton warned “Google's Approach May Doom the Effort”. However, no matter how much they market a plug-in/connector, customers are smart enough to see through this sleight of hand as an attempt to cover up the deficiencies of their messaging platform. Maybe this why the author said he “couldn't find one Apps administrator whose employer isn't a Google Apps reseller or integrator willing to speak favorably about the Outlook sync tool.” Yes, you read that right….. not one.
Generally, we see these connectors fail because of 3 main reasons and Google has definitely followed suit: Lack of feature parity, Risk/Information loss because not everything is synced to the server, & stability (For example, Google released an update on April 20th, 2010 and then had another release on April 22nd 2010 because of bugs)
Google could do better but they must be electing not too. When they broke Outlook search, we gladly helped them fix their code, but the problems seem to have continued. I do, however, give Google credit for transparently documenting everything that ‘breaks’ with the Sync tool across email, calendar, contacts, etc. Even something as simple as setting an “out of office” response doesn’t sync to Gmail. There are eight issues alone for syncing a simple recurring meeting. And don’t get me started on labels vs. folders (Did I mention we’ve had categories for eons in Outlook? – okay, fine, not eons, but for more than a decade!).
Ironically, Google’s own marketing materials claim the tool provides “all the benefits of the Google cloud to users of Outlook.” Which is Google’s way of saying, “you can use our less complete solution but trick your users into thinking they have everything they need to do their job.” Don’t believe me? The article highlights Jake Harris, IT manager at Aisle7, a Google Apps customer stating “I'm tired of the headaches, and I'm quite excited about going back to something that's tried and true," This is the sort of thing we hear more often from customers who are now realizing Google isn’t enterprise ready. See Andrew’s previous post on customers.
Office and Exchange 2010 Sets the New Bar. . . . Again
For 10+ years we’ve been delivering a common experience across the PC, phone & browser. In fact, Outlook Web Access was one of the first Ajax enabled browser apps in the industry and Outlook Mobile provides a rich experience for the phone. If you want cloud based solutions, then try Exchange Online with Outlook - no connector needed!
Office, SharePoint and Exchange have now all be released to the market and Osterman Research recently acknowledged that “Exchange 2010 adoption has already achieved significant momentum with 44 percent of respondents reporting that they plan to migrate to the new email platform within the next 18 months.” And the 7.5million Beta downloads of Office and SharePoint beta indicate continued strong demand. So take a look at the 2010 set of award winning features: enhanced conversation view, mailtips, the Outlook social connector, rich scheduling capabilities for users & conference rooms, etc. and decide for yourself.
If you’ve evaluated Google’s Outlook tool, here are three resources that may help you:
1. Attend a launch event for Office and SharePoint 2010.
2. Try a free trial of Exchange Online.
Sr. Technical Product Manager - Microsoft