Few days ago, Stuart J. Johnston of TechTarget approached me and several other Exchange fellows to ask how we thought the discontinued support of ActiveSync in GMail, part of Google’s “Winter Cleaning” operation, would impact users. You can read Stuart’s article here.
For reference and because Stuart only used a single quote from my (I think) extensive response, I’ve included my take on the situation below. Interestingly, today it turns out Google lost an ActiveSync patent case against Microsoft in a British court. Exchange fellow Tony Redmond did a nice writeup on that case and his personal involvement in that case here.
PS: I’ve already asked Stuart to fix my last name in the quote.
Regarding the discontinued support of ActiveSync in GMail, I think impact on both the Exchange as well as the GMail population varies.
First of all, the measure is aimed at new, free GMail accounts. I don’t know exact numbers, but I can imagine the number of people still not having a free GMail account is relatively minimal. Also, EAS will remain available to paid accounts.
Second, EAS is a means – no end – to synchronize information like mail, contacts or agenda. Consumers will adapt and switch to alternative protocols (or plugins) to synchronize this information between their Google account and their device. I think the effect of the information exchange becoming less efficient and the lack of information push is negligible.
Thirdly, Android and iPhone – covering 85% over the smartphone market – provide apps specifically aimed at GMail or other Google services. For those not using Google’s apps, the end user experience may be affected and all the additional tools required to fully synchronize with desktops won’t help.
Worst off are Windows Phone users or Windows 8 users using the built-in Mail app (Surface RT). While the Windows Phone user base may be relatively small, the Windows 8 user base is growing and they are both forced to use IMAP, which only does mail and there are – AFAIK – no *DAV apps in the Store to synchronize calendar or contact information.
While I do understand Google’s case, which is probably more a cost reduction and (resource) focus shift measure rather than another act in the Google vs Microsoft war, I also believe there might be a fair chance of Google shooting itself in the foot by dropping EAS. Microsoft’s free outlook.com service keeps supporting EAS (not surprisingly) and Microsoft has already taken up on plugging outlook.com as the alternative for Google
Finally, I’m in favor of competition which drives innovation. The whole GMail versus Hotmail/Office365 is no exception. However, it gets annoying when vendors drop functionality end users are accustomed to, making them have to put energy into looking at solutions or alternatives, which may become tiresome at some point.
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