Microsoft Windows Desktop Search and Windows Live Hotmail users can rejoice.
The search tool and Webmail client are no longer broken when used with the Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook plug-in, which Google released June 9 to help Microsoft Outlook users access their Google Apps e-mail, contacts and calendars through Outlook.
Google intended the tool as a way for longtime Microsoft Outlook users to continue to access their information via the familiar Outlook interface if their companies switch to Google Apps. This is a crucial chess move for a vendor trying to steal chunks of Microsoft‘s enterprise collaboration user base.
Shortly after Google rolled out the product, Microsoft’s Outlook programming team found bugs relating to the plug-in. The tool disabled Windows Desktop Search, keeping it from indexing and providing search functionality for Outlook data. The software module also disabled some functionality in Outlook for users of the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, which syncs Windows Live Hotmail with Outlook.
These glitches have been fixed, according to Chris Vander Mey, Google Apps senior product manager, who wrote, “The Windows Desktop Search feature now works, so you can choose between the native Outlook search, which has been available since launch, and Windows Desktop Search to find information in Outlook. We’ve also worked with them to add support for accessing Windows Live Hotmail via the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector plug-in.”
Mey also said Google had improved the plug-in, which may be downloaded here, in other ways. He and his team “added an option to let users enable or disable auto-archive during installation, improved the two-way synchronization of notes in contacts and improved our installation to make it [clearer] where data in other Outlook accounts is located.”
The programmer also said businesses have come calling about moving from their Microsoft Exchange environments to Google Apps. To answer some of those questions, Google has created a special Google Apps resource site to serve as a hub of information for businesses thinking of moving from Exchange.
The site comes across as an aggressive marketing tactic, exhorting customers to “Switch to Google. Save money. Avoid hassles … Spend a fraction of what Microsoft Exchange costs. For $50 per user per year, get anti-virus and spam protection, 25GB e-mail inboxes, calendar, IM, video chat and much more. Collaboration tools also included.”
Google’s expeditious fix on the Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook tool and this resource site underscore how important Google clearly feels it is to knock Exchange from the top of the e-mail server heap. This is a position Microsoft has cultivated over time.
In a recent interview with eWEEK, Google Apps Senior Product Manager Rajen Sheth said, “There are a set of users that have been using Outlook for 10, 15 years and they don’t want to change. That vocal minority can sink the deployment for everybody. So it’s in our best interests to make all of the users happy.”