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Microsoft plugs Outlook.com, knocks Google after Sync death notice

With early-2013 demise of ActiveSync for free Gmail accounts, Redmond again woos rival's consumer customers

December 18, 2012 01:28 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft yesterday pitched its Outlook.com email service to users of Gmail dismayed by Google's decision to abandon a popular enterprise synchronization service next month for new customers.

Last week, Google announced it would phase out synchronization via Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), which companies like Apple and Google license from their Redmond, Wash. rival to push email to smartphones and tablets, and sync calendar entries and contacts on multiple devices.

EAS is popular because of the widespread use of Microsoft's Exchange email server in business.

Google's Sync, which relies on EAS, will be limited to existing free accounts and paying Google Apps customers as of Jan. 30, 2013. Consumers won't be able to set up sync on new devices on or after that date.

Because Android mobile devices are unaffected and Google is pushing iOS users to adopt its stand-alone mobile apps -- which take care of synchronization using open standard protocols -- the odd-man-out is Microsoft. Google has already announced that it won't develop Windows 8 or Windows RT apps for Gmail, Google Drive and other Google Apps for the foreseeable future.

Dharmesh Mehta, a senior director at Microsoft, said his company was stunned by Google's decision to dump EAS support for non-paying customers.

"We were very surprised to see Gmail announce last week that they'll soon end support for Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), unless of course you're willing to pay Google for your email," said Mehta in a Monday entry on the Outlook team's blog. "It means that many people currently using Gmail for free are facing a situation where they might have to degrade their mobile email experience by downgrading to an older protocol that doesn't sync your calendar or contacts [and] doesn't give you direct push of new email messages."

Mehta then plugged Outlook.com, Microsoft's free online email service, and repeated instructions the company has offered before to Gmail users who want to switch but retain their existing addresses.

In July, Microsoft rebranded Hotmail -- acquired for $400 million in 1997 -- and overhauled the service with a visual redesign, SkyDrive and online Office app integration, and ties to several social networking sites, including Twitter and LinkedIn.

Since then, Microsoft has pitched Outlook.com to current Gmail customers several times, just one example of its continued sparring with Google in the enterprise business application market.

covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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