Microsoft blindsided by Google’s Exchange ActiveSync announcement?

The war between Google and Microsoft is heating up, and consumers and businesses are in the crossfire.

Let’s review the most recent contretemps.

Most recently, Google announced that Google Sync — designed to allow syncing on devices like cell phones to Gmail, Google Calendar, and Contacts based on Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync protocol — has moved into an ‘end of life’ status, meaning that Google will no longer allow new downloads, except for new users of Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government. But this was all long, long in the works, and Microsoft didn’t do anything to prepare.

Google has recently rolled out CardDAV, so Exchange ActiveSync is now being replaced in the Google architecture by IMAP (for email), CalDAV (for calendars), and CardDAV (for contacts).

The issue is that Microsoft has no replacement for new owners of Windows Phone, being caught in the pincers of Google’s open aggression. Obviously, Google sees every Windows Phone sold as a lost Android sale. And perhaps even more importantly, in the enterprise marketplace, Google Apps for Business is now a direct competitor to Microsoft’s Exchange and Office products.

And Microsoft’s response?

 Dhamesh Mehta, Outlook Blog

… It’s time to join the millions who have already made the choice to upgrade to

Oh, sure.

The reality is that Microsoft painted themselves into this corner. Google was having to pay to Microsoft a fee to use the ActiveSync protocol. And now Microsoft is positioning themselves as the aggrieved party, and Google as the bad boy? Stop.

The result will be another reason not to buy a Windows Phone for consumers. For enterprise buyers who are using Microsoft technologies like Exchange or Google Apps for Business, things will be fine. But for that large swath of small businesses, whose staff get by with Google’s free tools, all of a sudden Windows Phone is a non-starter.


Simplifying Email

atsignAs web workers, we are often asked to help friends and relatives fix computer problems. For me, the majority of these problems seem to be related to email. It’s ironic, as email is now less popular than social networks.

So why is email such a hassle?

  • It’s more than 30 years old. Email has come a long way, but its underlying protocols haven’t changed much since the 1970s.
  • It’s really three different systems. Sending (SMTP) and receiving (POP or IMAP) are totally separate functions, and are often handled on different servers. That’s why I often hear comments like “I can receive, but I can’t send” from clients.
  • It’s being used for a lot of things it was never designed to do, like send images and attachments, highly formatted messages, signatures and calendar entries.
  • It’s been overrun by spam, and even well-designed spam filters aren’t perfect, and cause unwanted side effects, like messages that get misidentified as spam, or just go away.
  • Email software is too complex. These programs that were originally built for offline use; that is, they were set up so that users could read and write messages without being connected to the internet. Sending and receiving would happen in batches. That made sense when internet connections were slow, expensive and charged by the minute. Now that most people have always-on connections like cable or DSL, that process is less necessary. Desktop email client software is a pain to set up and use; as someone who helps many people with email, Outlook is the bane of my existence.
  • Many of us connect to the Internet in more than one place — at work, at home, and on cell phones. It can be very frustrating to realize that we’ve left the message we needed to reply to at the office.
  • Many of us have more than one email address. I try to keep my work and personal email separate, plus I have a series of email addresses that I use when registering on websites that might try to send spam. And I have several email addresses that were given to me, such as the ones that are automatically created when signing up for instant-messaging services like Yahoo, AIM and Windows Live/MSN.

What can be done to overcome these problems? Here are some tips that might help you and your clients and friends be more productive. Read More about Simplifying Email

Zoho Mail Goes Offline & Mobile

As Google deepened its support for offline access via IMAP this week, Zoho, its closest competitor in the web office space, was publicly unveiling its own support for offline and access, ironically using Google’s own Gears platform.

Curiously Zoho decided that to bring users’ mailboxes offline, Gears was a better technological platform for offline access than the IMAP protocol; though we’re assured IMAP is coming.

Regardless, the offline features seem pretty comprehensive despite currently being restricted to Gears for Firefox and Internet Explorer and with most online features being available offline – messages, images & attachments are optionally available and a clever connectivity detection feature automatically determines whether a network is visible, flipping between offline and online modes as appropriate, with offline messages queued for later deliver when connectivity becomes available.

A Gears configuration dialog allows users to select the number of messages to download initially, how many Sent Items should be stored for offline access.

Finally, though Zoho is pitching mobile access alongside offline support, in reality Zoho Mail is currently only optimised for the iPhone.

Though the offline support appears to work well enough – as do other Gears-enabled services such as Google Reader – mainstream offline access seems a little too fragmented for comfort.

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Google Labs Gives Gmail an IMAP Functionality Boost

Gmail, a staple of our work environment, becomes a little more like “big-boy” IMAP courtesy of Google Labs. Hit the Labs button in your Gmail account and you’ll see a new “Advanced IMAP Controls” function. Enable it and you can begin to take advantage of the following new features:

  • Auto-Expunge: it sounds like a dirty word, but expunging is a good thing for data that’s no longer needed. Up to now, Gmail would simply mark items for deletion in clients and not immediately delete them. Enabling the Auto-Expunge feature kicks those deleted messages to the curb and gets them out of your e-mail system.
  • Delete Forever: one the benefits of Gmail is that like an elephant, it never forgets. All of your mail is archived in the Gmail / All Mail label or folder unless you manually clean it out. This often results in wasted space, messages in multiple locations and more bandwidth required for mail synching. You can now expunge mail forever by setting Gmail to simply move it to Trash upon deletion.
  • Selective Syncing: you can now pick and choose which labels or folders you want synchronized between Gmail and your web or desktop client. This comes in handy for archived folders that don’t change much. For example, I still want my “CES 2008” folder data, but I don’t need to see it every waking minute of the day. I’ve disabled that one for now because I’ve got an active “CES 2009” folder for planning purposes.

Each of these features can be useful, but for me the ability to say good-bye to the All Mail label usage is key. I often work remotely over wireless broadband connections where there’s a 5GB monthly data cap and 1.5-hours of work already uses near 45MB. Why should I be synching the near 53,000 e-mails in my All Mail folder when I’m already managing the ones I need with custom labels?

TV Tops, But PC Video Watching Grows

While oldteevee remains the top video-watching dog for most people, the PC is gaining ground, according to a recent study by Ipsos MediaCT. Ipsos found that, among U.S. video downloaders and streamers, the amount of video consumed on a TV set dropped to 70 percent in February 2008 from 75 percent in February 2007.

While oldteevee was dropping, video watching on PCs grew to 19 percent in 2008, up from from 11 percent in 2007. According to Ipsos, of the 52 percent of Americans 12 and older who have ever streamed or downloaded video content, roughly one out of every five hours of video content is watched on the PC.

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Jailbreaking Hotmail

With Microsoft’s announcement this week that Outlook and Outlook Express will no longer support desktop access to Hotmail accounts raises some interesting questions on data portability.

After 30th June, Microsoft’s Windows Live Mail application will be the only means by which desktop and offline access to Hotmail accounts will be supported. This effectively means that a Hotmail user’s messages continue to be imprisoned within a closed ecosphere of services and applications. OK, smart people won’t be using Outlook, Outlook Express or Hotmail, but millions do and many have years of messages archived that they may wish to continue accessing outside a web-based interface.

However, there are some unofficial mechanisms that can not only continue to provide offline and desktop access, but also standards-based access into most email clients

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He’s gettin’ old… er, I mean: Happy Birthday James!

Jk_icon_100pixOK, he might not be getting his present on time… c’mon Fujitsu, don’t you have his birthday in Plaxo, Outlook or something?!? Just because there’s no gift from the FedEx man today doesn’t mean we can’t all wish James a Happy Birthday and many more years of mobile tech blogging. Happy Birthday dude! Oh and I hate to be the spokesperson for the group, but I’m guessing in another year or two it’ll be time for a “more mature” looking avatar. Just kidding! 😉

Move Networks, Acinion Raise Millions

Online video infrastructure companies are in high demand these days, and they’re taking advantage of the opportunity to haul in cash. Dan Primack of Private Equity Hub has the scoop on two deals: Move Networks recently raised $34 million, and Acinion took in $16 million.

This brings Move’s total venture capitalization up over $45 million from firms like Steamboat Ventures and Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, while Acinion now has raised around $21 million from firms like Globespan Capital Partners, IDG Ventures Boston and Sigma Partners (new to this round).

We’ve been impressed with American Fork, Utah-based Move, which provides video streaming platforms for customers such as ABC, the CW, and FOX.
Read More about Move Networks, Acinion Raise Millions

Microsoft Zune getting wireless download feature?

Zune_trioBack in April, I wrote up three features that I think would make the Zune a more compelling product. If you believe in rumors, some with blurry pics, at least one of the three items might be around the corner.  Engadget has two photos showing a beta firmware build for the Zune that provides the ability to download music from open WiFi hotspots. Don’t know if it’s true, of course but I still believe the Zune team was forward-thinking by including wireless capability in the Zune. I personally have never turned on my Zune’s wireless radio because it doesn’t provide a feature I want. Now, if I could just get that XBox 360 video content on my Zune, I’d really be a happy camper. 😉

While we’re on the subject of Zune: what features would you want in ‘the perfect handheld audio/video device’?