Could Google prompt Microsoft to provide easier syncing?
As a Windows Phone user, and trying to persuade my wife to one day become one (instead of the Blackberry she totes around), I’m constantly stopped by the prospect that there is no way to sync my calendar and contacts without going through some online service.
This is a very strange situation, because even Apple’s iPhone can apparently synchronise Outlook contacts and calendar entries over the USB connection.
Microsoft’s answer to date has always been that we should rent or borrow an Exchange Server of some sort, push our calendar and contact details to that server, and then fetch them down later. Not exactly secure (you’re sharing a high-value target, possibly operated by a company with whom you compete, as your mail server), and free under generally limited circumstances.
Maybe I’m too paranoid, but I don’t really fancy that level of reliance on someone else’s service to host and protect information that, up until now, I’ve held physically on only a couple of devices. So, I make do without my contacts on my phone, and I rarely have a firm idea of my calendar commitments until I’m back at home base.
There are solutions, of course, because there always are – and they rely, essentially, on setting up something that pretends to be Exchange on your local WiFi.
Not exactly secure, and not exactly cheap. Certainly not free.
Then comes the bad news – Google has decided to close down Exchange connectivity to GMail, so that Windows Phones will not be able to use GMail any more. I’m sure that’s not the reason they give in press releases, but it seems likely that’s at least seen as a handy side-benefit. [Does this mean Google sees a threat from Windows Phone?]
Rather uncharacteristically, but in a welcome move, Microsoft turned around and, instead of turning it into a raging war of words, said that if they couldn’t get at GMail that way any more, they’d support one of the other ways of getting at GMail – this means that they’ll start supporting IMAP and the Calendar and Contact sync formats supported by GMail.
That changes everything
Because now, you don’t have to find an Exchange lookalike in order to sync locally – all you need is IMAP support, and support for the two formats, CardDAV and CalDAV.
These are simpler formats, and more widely documented and supported, than the Exchange protocols previously insisted upon by Microsoft. I can see that when they open up IMAP support, a lot of Windows Phone users will be opened up to their email accounts, and when CardDAV and CalDAV are added, we should see very quickly some solutions that allow for syncing of contacts and calendar while connected by USB.
2013 should be a good year to be a Windows Phone user.
And yes, I’m still waiting for my carrier to push Windows Phone 7.8.