Underscoring the trickiness of getting Web-based and desktop applications to work together, Microsoft said June 16 that Google’s Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook synchronization tool disables Microsoft’s Windows Desktop Search feature for searching in Outlook.
Google June 9 released Google Apps Synch for Microsoft Outlook with a mind to reach out to the millions of Outlook users who may desire to access their Google Apps e-mail, contacts and calendar through Outlook.
Google had hoped the tool would allow people “who love Microsoft Outlook to continue to use it when their company switches to Google Apps,” a smart overture for a vendor trying to tap into Microsoft’s monstrous enterprise productivity user base.
Seeking to build out its enterprise revenue streams, Google is gunning for even some of Microsoft’s large share of the messaging and collaboration software market. By enabling users to trade data between Google Gmail and Microsoft Outlook, Google could make it easier for businesses who have been eyeing Google Apps to make a switch when their Microsoft licensing contracts expire.
Such migration goals are challenging. Microsoft Outlook Product Manager Dev Balasubramanian wrote in a blog post June 17 that the synch tool stymies Windows Desktop Search from indexing:
“When a Google Apps user installs the sync plug-in for Outlook, the plug-in modifies a registry key which disables Windows Desktop Search from indexing and providing search functionality for all Outlook data, not just the Outlook data being synchronized from Gmail. Because Outlook search relies upon the indexing performed by Windows Desktop Search, Outlook search functions are broken as a result. It is also important to note that uninstalling the plug-in may not fix the issue.“
Balasubramanian added that Outlook users who have already installed this plug-in or have experienced this issue, must change the registry key that was modified by the plug-in. He provides instructions for how to do this in his post.
Chris Vander Mey, senior product manager for Google Apps, was more understated about the problems in his blog post, allowing that some plug-ins don’t yet work with Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook:
“Programs that interact directly with the Outlook data file, including Windows Desktop Search and PGP.com’s encryption plug-in, don’t currently work well with Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. Windows Desktop Search will not properly index Google Apps Sync data files, so in order to stop indexing from running indefinitely, the Google Apps Sync installer disables it. We recommend using the default Outlook search.“
Cemaphore CEO Weighs in on Failed Google Synch
There is some disagreement between whether uninstalling the synch tool will work or not. Balasubramanian said no; Vander Mey says users can uninstall Google Apps Synch if they want to re-enable Windows Desktop Search for their Outlook data files.
A Google spokesperson told eWEEK that uninstalling the synch tool will definitely work. “If you uninstall it, Windows Desktop Search will begin to work,” the spokesperson affirmed, adding that native Outlook search is unaffected by the bug.
There are more compatibility issues afoot. Vander Mey added that the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, Acrobat PDF Maker Toolbar and Outlook Change Notifier plug-ins also will not work unless Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook is uninstalled.
Balasubramanian explained that when a user has the Outlook Connector installed and installs the Google Apps Sync plug-in, the next time Outlook is started an error message comes up stating that “some functionality will be disabled”.
Google and Microsoft are working together to fix these issues, but whether users will have the patience for this is another issue.
Tyrone Pike, CEO of Cemaphore Systems, whose MailShadow Desktop Edition synchronizes users’ e-mail, calendar, and contact data bi-directionally in real time between different Google Apps, Microsoft Exchange and other e-mail programs, told eWEEK that he isn’t surprised by Google’s snags.
Pike, who works with Google to improve his company’s synchronization tools, said he thinks Google believed establishing interoperability between Google and Microsoft would be a snap. One thing that Cemaphore’s programmers have learned is that clean Outlook plug-ins are extremely challenging to build. Pike explained:
“There has never been defined a model in which there can be coexistence between Outlook plug-ins. If you hook various resources, the assumption is that you’re the only one hooking those resources. When Google went about deciding to build this Glook [Pike’s name for it], they were 100 percent sure that MAPI-based Outlook programming was easy.“
It turned out not to be, Pike said, noting that the Google would need a huge staff of programmers doing regression testing against the 100-plus Outlook plug-ins.
“There’s inevitably some sort of interoperability challenges we’re trying to work through for additional features with plug-ins and the like,” the Google spokesperson said. “We’re working on that with Microsoft and other partners.”
In the meantime, eWEEK will continue to track the Google Apps Synch for Microsoft Outlook development. More on TechMeme here.