Why Google Should Enable Exchange Support for Android

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-09-30 Print this article Print

Last week, T-Mobile unveiled the G1 to a flurry of interest from the public who wanted to see the first smart phone based on Google's Android mobile operating system.

One of the knocks on the G1 is that it won't support Microsoft Exchange out of the box when it hits retail Oct. 22. Andy Rubin, senior director of mobile platforms at Google, told the audience there is "no Exchange compatibility, but it's a perfect opportunity for a third-party developer." 

This is a fair, widely chronicled point, but who do we criticize for the omission of Exchange support for Android, which would enable users to access their Outlook e-mail data from the G1? Do we place blame with Google or Microsoft?

I say Google, but two posts by eWEEK readers highlight the uncertainty over who holds the onus of creating Exchange interoperability on the G1, and on Android at large. Reader Jon wrote:

"Anyone can develop for the android platform - which means *YOU* or Microsoft or anyone with some motivation could build software to allow *ANY* android based phone to support Microsoft Exchange. It's Open Source, do people not get what that means? It's not Google's responsibility to make sure that every phone built on Android does everything, or anything for that matter, it's now up to the developer community to make ... apps and features that we want/need. I say a better placed criticism would be on Microsoft - why have they not released Android based MS Exchange email app? Is it because they don't want people to buy Google phones? Hmm."  

Reader Jasonxz wrote this in response:

"Google creates a new mobile phone OS that doesn't support the most widely-used mail exchange platform in the world and that's somehow Microsoft's fault? Let's blame Apple for the fact that Android doesn't support Objective C, either, while we're at it. Yes, I understand that Android is open source & that anyone can write for it and make these things happen. But, Google obviously made the decision that leaves these items out of the OS. Maybe they ran out of time for Exchange and felt pressured by the success of the iPhone. Maybe they're counting on the developer community to handle this for them. Maybe they think they can survive without Exchange support. The fact of the matter is this: Microsoft is already king of the Exchange world. They don't need Google's help there. So, why should they devote resources to helping Google's OS?"

The points from Jon and Jasonxz are valid, but I believe the burden of enabling Exchange to work with Android is on Google, which should work out a deal with Microsoft and license to interoperate with Exchange.

Such an application would serve Android well in penetrating the enterprise, similar to the way Apple's support for rival Exchange is helping the iPhone gain enterprise adoption. All apologies to IBM Lotus Domino, but Exchange is only the most widely used e-mail server in the world.

The irony, however, is that most IT analysts from Gartner, Burton Group, etc., will tell you that Google Apps is NOT enterprise-ready.

What to do? I say Google should step up and enable Exchange to run on not only the G1 but any phone based on Android in perpetuity. Leaving it to a "third-party developer" is a cop-out. Do you think they have the money to pay Microsoft to write to Exchange? No.

If Google is going to go to lengths to support Apple's iPhone with its Apps, it should also enable Exchange support.

And if Google wants Android to be taken seriously as a platform for enterprises as well as consumers, it should swallow its pride and support Exchange. 

There is another issue for Google to consider: Google makes all claims of Android being open, but it clearly prefers that you use Google Apps on Android phones. Indeed, Google Apps such as Talk, YouTube and Gmail are optimized for the G1.

So don't tell me Google's Android's religion is simply open source. It's open source with an asterisk. 

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