Microsoft is issuing an open invitation to Gmail users that were left smarting by Google's decision to drop Exchange ActiveSync support for free accounts. Last week, Google announced that free consumer Gmail accounts would no longer support the Microsoft-developed email, calendar and contact synchronization protocol as part of the company's "winter cleaning."
In an official company blog post, Google's Venkat Panchapakesan, vice president of Engineering, signaled the impending shutdown of Google Sync, which enables ActiveSync interoperability, in favor of IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV for "a seamless sync experience using open protocols."
"Starting Jan. 30, 2013, consumers won't be able to set up new devices using Google Sync; however, existing Google Sync connections will continue to function," wrote Panchapakesan.
For pay customers, it's business as usual. "Google Sync will continue to be fully supported for Google Apps for Business, Government and Education. Users of those products are unaffected by this announcement," he added.
Sensing an opportunity to attract more users to its cloud services, Microsoft is jumping on the news and rolling out the red carpet for Gmail users that require ActiveSync support.
Dharmesh Mehta, senior director of product management for Outlook and SkyDrive, posted in the Outlook Blog that come early 2013, users of Google's free Gmail service will be treated like second-class citizens in the mobile email race.
"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," he stated.
Mehta urged Gmail users looking for a free alternative to open an Outlook.com account instead. He published a three-step guide on getting started with the service and noted that Gmail account holders don't have to quit cold turkey. "Tell Gmail to forward your mail to Outlook.com as it arrives. You can also keep a copy in your Gmail inbox if you want to," he advised.
Outlook.com debuted this summer as a replacement for the Microsoft's popular but aging Hotmail service. It offers a "virtually unlimited" inbox, spam protection, SkyDrive integration and social media connectors for popular networks like Facebook and Twitter. Like many of Microsoft's recent efforts, it carries the minimalist aesthetic that anchors its recently launched Windows 8 operating system.
Painting Outlook.com as a forward-looking and free email service, Mehta took a jab at Google's assertion that open protocols like IMAP are a good foundation for mobile productivity. "POP and IMAP were designed decades ago, were considered state-of-the-art at the time, and are still used by millions of people. Both were created before mobile phones really even existed," he blogged.
He added that many mobile devices, "whether that's a Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, or even a number of Android devices," support ActiveSync natively.