back to article Microsoft 'surprised' by Google Gmail 'winter cleaning'

Microsoft has shot back at Google’s termination of Exchange syncing for free Gmail accounts, and urged users to throw out Gmail for Outlook.com. Google last week said it's closing Google Sync, a service that allowed users of Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync protocol to access their Gmail, calendars, and contacts via the …

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    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Fixed it for ya, Microsoft...

      Anyone that's locked into Microsoft's Exchange stuff really only has themselves to blame for that. It's certainly NOT Google's fault you have a reliance on Microsoft's own proprietary standards....

      By anyone, I suspect you are including the millions of people who have to use MS Office at work and have no choice in the matter. Some of them had managed to get it to synchronise things with the outside world. That was a small victory against the suit wearers who had "standardised" on MS non-standards years before against the advice of IT departments worldwide.

      This minor success has now been taken away from them and they seem set to be trapped with multiple unsynchronised calendars so that MS and Google can continue their battles.

    2. Gil Grissum
      Pint

      Re: Fixed it for ya, Microsoft...

      If you work some place that uses MS Exchange as the e-mail system, you don't have a choice in the e-mail system you're connecting to, so MS lock in at the work place isn't your choice. Google realizes that Windows Phone is likely to become popular in Microsoft shops, so they are seeing a new revenue stream by charging for the previously free connectivity to Gmail. If however, Outlook.com will in fact connect to Exchange servers, then there is no need to pay Google for Gmail to connect to it.

  1. jkt2

    Am I right in thinking that Google have to pay Microsoft to support ActiveSync?

    Why would Google pay Microsoft to support a service which appears to be only a benefit to users of Microsoft based platforms when non royalty based protocols exist that anyone can use (even Microsoft)?

    Would have thought it would have been a benefit to just set the ActiveSync protocol free for anyone to use then we probably wouldn't have this situation.

    Why are Microsoft surprised, would have thought they would have seen this one coming a mile away?

    1. badmonkey

      A better question is why do Google not come up with their own offering that is superior to the horrible IMAP interface that they do bother with.

      I know that the answer is that they want eyeballs on their web interface, and preferably via Chrome, but I'm happy to see some interest at least in the tech community that apparently indicates some lingering interest in proper e-mail clients... despite the sorry state of affairs in that department, at least in the Windows environment.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        WTF?

        > horrible IMAP interface

        ???

        IMAP is a protocol, used by email clients. Everyone's "IMAP interface" is much the same, see RFC 3501

        1. badmonkey

          Whatever. Gmail uses weird folder structuring and what it does with sent e-mails is "non standard".

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            @badmonkey

            IMAP is a protocol, and does not imply any structure on the way mailboxes (folders) are set-up and named.

            The problem is that now people use a hybrid of reading their mail on a web enabled mail server, and downloading mails to a local mail client, you need some structure on the server, something that IMAP was never explicitly written for. There is code to handle it, mainly by treating folders as separate mailboxes, but there is no standard structure defined, and nor should there be in a protocol standard.

            As Gmail does not really support folders (from what I remember, one of the design criteria was that it would not use folders, anything that looks like a folder is really a set of mails indexed using tags), this probably adds difficulty to communication with another mail server that does use folders. Add this to a protocol that does not embrace folders in the first place, and it is clear that it will never be smooth, and how well it works is probable more to do with the mail server and mail clients than to imap.

            1. eulampios

              maildir or mbox

              Exactly, the mere openness and interoperability of IMAP dictate to abstract from the server-side mailbox structure. Not sure though, which of the maildir or mbox model do Google really use on the server side.

          2. eulampios

            FYI, badmonkey

            Gmail uses weird folder structuring

            What is wrong with it? Inbox and Sent plus [Gmail]/{All Mail, Drafts, Important, SentMail, Spam, Starred, Trash}. You can create any folder you want and where you want.

            and what it does with sent e-mails is "non standard"

            Again what is it? Imap doesn't handle that. You are confusing IMAP with the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) that is also open and used to universally send email messages (and it might well be outdated and crap according to the crap connoisseur from Redmond)

          3. Vince

            How about that it uses "Labels" as "mailboxes/folders" and not IMAP keywords, the duplication issues?

            How about that it doesn't respond to many standard flags?

            The non standard handling of deleted folders, sent items, the broken drafts.

            It goes on and on.

            1. eulampios

              @vince

              How about that it uses "Labels" as "mailboxes/folders"

              How about what is a problem? Can you navigate between gmail boxes? Yes. Can you create new boxes/labels? Can you remove them? Yes you can.

              I can delete folders, regex-tagged messages from mutt. The feature to move messages to the trash box (where you can delete it immediately or wait a until it automatically does) is akin a trash folder. I'd prefer to rm, but most user would probably not.

              Which flags it doesn't respond to?

              Sent items? What's with them? I keep drafts locally

        2. dogged

          Google's is non-standard in several ways.

          Embrace, extend....?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Which is the problem, it's old, hasn't been updated and improved and so it doesn't fit the modern multi device, multi account world we live in.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      jkt2,

      A good reason that Google might want to consider paying Microsoft actual money to use Exchange Active Sync is that their users want them to. Also, it works. Whereas Google's implementation of IMAP doesn't (at least not properly or consistently). Also iOS uses the same protocol to connect to GMail doesn't it?

      Google are perfectly willing to sacrifice their customers' in order to pursue a corporate bunfight. It's their servers, their rules. But that does risk their customers deciding to bugger off though.

      And yes, I'm aware that GMail is kind-of free. Although the cost is actually access to your personal data and permission to show targeted ads, so it could be argued that it's not cheap after all. Anyway, Google recognise it's a valuable service, because they're keeping it for their paying customers, so they can't argue that open standards are better. Not being cost-effective is a perfectly valid argument though. But they didn't use that.

      1. jkt2

        ActiveSync

        Hmmm iOS users are pretty safe at the moment as Google are permitted (at Apples discretion of course) to distribute a dedicated email client for that platform, its not a big problem for iOS users (for the moment).

        For contacts and calendars Google supports CardDAV and CalDAV, both royalty free protocols

        I agree the cutting of access to Exchange Active Sync to normal customers is an PITA for most Windows Phone users but then Microsoft have competing web services such as Outlook.com (which will now have to fill the void, if one does in fact exist).

        It would appear that the users of the WP platform have opted for the MS echosystem and all that entails (that should be clear for anyone that has jumped to Windows Phone, it's a Microsoft centric device after all).

        I can only presume the reason that Google ditched Exchange Active Sync is because of the royalties involved (not insignificant) and the user base of the WP platform. Cost/Benefit analysis probably determined that it doesn't make commercial sense to support Microsoft Active Sync users unless they are paying for the privilege of using the royalty baring protocol (Business Users will).

        At the end of the day the decision probably boiled down to cold hard cash (as most do) rather than rhetoric.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: ActiveSync

          jkt2,

          I'm not sure it's much comfort to iOS users when their synching stops working. There are open calendar and contacts standards that GMail may operate (possibly even minus the IMAP bugs...). But as I understand it Apple's own apps use Active Sync. So they can move to Google's app, but when another app wants to send an email it'll launch the native Apple mail client first. Unlike Android you can't have another app become default. So the one's that understand the problem will be able to solve it. More likely, they'll have to ask someone else.

          As for Win Pho I doubt that's mostly sold to people who knew they were signing up for MS lock-in. As MS are aiming it at consumers. Maybe they'll put their email stopping working down to MS, and move to Android. Or maybe they'll put it down to Google and move to Hotmail/Live/Outlook/whatever-they-call-it-next week...

          I've got Win Pho 7, so I admit to being a touch grumpy about this. But I was only using GMail as an easy synching tool, so I can easily swap. The business stuff goes through our Exchange server.

          I'm looking at a new phone anyway, it may be another Android (Nexus 4 looks yummy), but Google have been annoying me of late, and I'm wondering if I shouldn't dump them and go a different route.

          1. jkt2

            Re: ActiveSync

            Spartacus,

            Hmm perhaps I was wrong about iOS users now that you mention the native mail client opening thingy. I guess that's the point though, open (or at least open'ish platforms and standards) beat closed and locked down every time, still, Google managed to create a way for links in its maps application to be opened up in its Google Maps app for iOS 6 so perhaps they might engineer a work around for that... doesn't help much at the moment now though but hope for the future perhaps?

            As for Win Pho, yeah I know a couple of people that will be hacked off and maybe justifiably so, but once again, MS wanted to rule the world and only implemented support for Active Sync when they should have at least considered currently active open protocols when writing a basic email client . Why they didn't at least include this functionality is beyond me...can't say I'm surprised though.

            I just don't get how Microsoft can be 'surprised' by this move, it would appear they still haven't realized that they are not the only game in town anymore and that charging for the privilege of using a protocol to use their products will in the end put other providers off using it when other non royalty baring standards exist (which are 'good enough') and can be freely implemented. It seems basic business logic to me.

            As for normal users, normal users would probably have opted for the services that came with the Phone and probably signed up to Skydrive and Outlook in one go... unfamiliar with Windows Phone but surely you can sign up to the Microsoft services when you boot the phone??

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: ActiveSync

              jkt2,

              Win Pho isn't the locked in nightmare that some people seem to think. On my email set up screen in Win Pho 7.5 I have options for Windows Live and Outlook, Nokia/Yahoo/Googlemail, POP and IMAP.

              I don't know what they support in terms of CalDAV and CardDAV though. I have a vague recollection that along with IMAP on iOS you can use CardDAV, but it doesn't do CalDAV. Or that could be t'other way round.

              The problem isn't that email isn't going to work, it's that Active Sync does push and synchs calendars and address books as well as email. Whereas IMAP doesn't do any of those, and Google's implementation of IMAP is a bit poo.

              I believe you can set up a Windows Live account out of the box with Windows Phone.

              It'll be interesting to see if Google send an email to people using Active Sync to explain what they're doing and how to work around it. I use an iPad, a Windows Phone and GMail to synch some things between them, so I've got a foot in all camps at the moment.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ActiveSync

            re: Windows phone lock-in:

            You can now sync music from several sources, including iTunes, to a Windows phone. You can also use many different non-MS email/calendar services. The only thing that you need to use MS for is their app store, which is pretty much fair enough.

            I don't have a WP8, but I do have a WP7.5, so I'm not 100% sure about the above, but it seems to be the case, from reading a few reviews.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ActiveSync

          ActiveSync isn't Windows Phone specific. So your argument makes no sense.

  2. The BigYin

    So...

    ....out of the frying pan and into the fire, eh?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm...

    Another example of Google offering free services, then when they've reeled in the customers charging them for the services they've already signed up to?

    Please make up your own "first try is free" type of crack dealer comparison.

  4. paul 97
    Thumb Up

    From Exchange To Gmail

    Our business has moved from Exchange to Google Apps.

    I love it , as my linux box never worked well with exchange (Evolution MAPI was ok , but slow).

    1. badmonkey

      Re: From Exchange To Gmail

      Expensive though isn't it?

      Will Outlook.com not do for free the same thing? (basically unrestricted [500] users and data)

      If you're using the free version of Apps, you have the same issues as before - IMAP support is of poor quality, EAS is generally superior if your clients support it, you cannot do email forwarding, low number of users allowed, etc.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From Exchange To Gmail

      We moved the other way, we've found Gmail to be slow (particularly with automatic forwarding and out of office) and have a rather irritatingly inconsistent UI.

  5. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: outlook.com

      Repost of withdrawn comment, with a bit missed off to comply with house rules:

      I don't want my email to be cool, I just want it to work. Why would I want email to be cool?

      Personally I use my own domain, but how you can say that gmail is more or less cool than outlook, I don't know...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: outlook.com

        "how you can say that gmail is more or less cool than outlook, I don't know..."

        Because your conversing with a spotty teanager with litlle life experience, and alot of knowledge to gain!

        (Certainly seems like it, shocking if its not)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: outlook.com

          "Because your conversing with a spotty teanager with litlle life experience, and alot of knowledge to gain!"

          That certainly appears to be the case. Also, I think I hear the distant sound of an English teacher attempting to end it all.

    3. Ilgaz

      Re: outlook.com

      Accountants and business guys are known to go mad if they launch outlook application by accident.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: outlook.com

        @Ilgaz - Really? Have I missed sarcasm? I worked in FTSE100 financial companies for about fourteen years and Outlook/Exchange was the client/server of choice followed by Domino. I remember taking Outlook/Exchange out of a company, now that drove people hopping mad...

        1. Ilgaz

          Re: outlook.com

          I have seen outlook application choking a dual core laptop and using 10% of battery when launched by accident.

          It is comparable to photoshop in use by a pro with lots of plugins but it would be harsh comparison.

  6. Phil W

    I don't really see a problem

    Personally I don't really see a huge benefit in Activesync over IMAP.

    I've never encountered any problems using IMAP. so I'd be quite interested for some of you people bashing it so hard to explain your grievances. I use IMAP for 2 of mail services, one of which is my own Linux based mail server for my own domain. It works faultlessly.

    Not that I have any problem with Activesync, I support an Exchange 2010 infrastructure at work exclusively using Activesync (IMAP and POP3 support disabled) and have no issues using that.

    The only problem Activesync ever presents is the one usually inherent in proprietary protocols, incompatibility.

    A number of users complain about lack of support for their Blackberry, and even a small number about the lack of support for Thunderbird.

    1. dogged

      Re: I don't really see a problem

      Personally I don't really see a huge benefit in Activesync over IMAP.

      Calendar entries and contacts. IMAP doesn't sync them, ActiveSync does.

      1. Phil W

        Re: I don't really see a problem

        dogged:

        True IMAP doesn't do calender and contacts but it isn't supposed to, it's an email protocol not a generic data exchange protocol. Your point is akin to saying SMTP doesn't stream video.

        Calender and Contact support is provided by CalDAV and CardDAV, both of which are quite decent protocols.

        A major bug bear of mine with ActiveSync is that you can't access shared calenders with it, only ones that you directly own. I'm pretty sure CalDAV will let you access any calender you have rights to, though I could be wrong as I don't use it a great deal.

        1. dogged
          Headmaster

          Re: I don't really see a problem

          Your point is akin to saying SMTP doesn't stream video.

          It would be, if Google's offering was limited to email and had no calendar or contact management functionality. Since it has both, my point is more akin to saying that a particular mobile phone OS can't do SMS.

          1. Phil W

            Re: I don't really see a problem

            dogged:

            No you're still being silly and wrong. Your complaint about IMAP was that it doesn't support something it was never intended or designed to do.

            You justify this by saying that it's crap because Google provide Calender and Contact services which IMAP doesn't support. Yes true, that is why they offer CalDAV and CardDAV which do Calender and Contact sync respectively.

            The worst you can say is that Google have replaced one protocol with three. But that's hardly the crime of the century, especially when you consider that ActiveSync is proprietary and poorly supported on some platforms due to coding or licensing issues, where as the 3 protocols they offer instead are open standards that can realistically be supported on almost any platform and OS.

            1. dogged
              Stop

              Re: I don't really see a problem

              Your complaint about IMAP was that it doesn't support something it was never intended or designed to do.

              Not a complaint, merely an observation. You asked for the advantage of EAS over IMAP, I gave it to you. I am neither wrong nor silly.

              Further, I quite like IMAP. I don't like GMail because Google's implementation of IMAP is non-standard and seriously annoying.

      2. Ilgaz

        There is a standard for calendar/contacts

        It is called syncml, industry standard, documented, allows "push" and even IMAP remote configuration.

        Even Nokia S40 "dumb" phones have it.

        One of standards you opted out when you have chosen exchange that is.

    2. badmonkey
      Angel

      Re: I don't really see a problem

      IMAP is slow, usually, and clients don't tend to handle poor connections well.

      It has no sensible way to archive sent messages. What should happen is the sent message gets uploaded once, sent, and is archived in both the client's and the server's "sent" folder without further need for synchronization. What actually happens is either a) the client sends via SMTP and then uploads a second copy to the sent folder, or b) [like Gmail] the SMTP server copies the message over to the IMAP sent folder on the server, and the client then faithfully syncs it to the local sent folder. Either way double the bandwidth is used and it is fucking retarded.

      The deletion behavior of marking and purging is outdated and confusing for people who expect deleted messages to go to the "trash".

      There is no IMAP push.

      1. Phil W

        Re: I don't really see a problem

        badmonkey:

        I think you will find your issue with sent items is dependent on your client and server setup. I know for certain that with Oulook 2010, and my Android mail client. You can choose the sent item folder manually in the client, and set it to the folder on the mail server preventing duplication. Though I know you are correct that some clients don't do this and do cause unneccessary duplication.

        As far as the bandwidth is concerned, yes you're right but for the most part emails are maybe a few 100kb max, so it's hardly the end of the world.

        As for the deletion behaviour, I could be wrong but I think this again is mail client related rather than protocol related. The webmail client I have on my own server is SquirrelMail (also Horde) which both do have the mark and purge function. However when using the same account from my Android device, if I delete an item it goes directly to Deleted Items.

        As far as push goes. True it doesn't have the feature, but in reality neither does ActiveSync for the purposes of most clients. An Android or iDevice connected to Exchange 2010 and configured for push just checks mail every 5ms generating a crap load of unnecessary server load and wasting lots of that bandwidth you're so fond of sparing.

        1. Phil W

          Re: I don't really see a problem

          badmonkey:

          Forget to mention, IMAP isn't slow. However many clients implement the protocol poorly, and many server admins configure their servers poorly creating the appearance of it being slow.

          1. Ilgaz

            So lets blame people

            So imap and syncml are future ready open documented protocols but dumb admins and the IT decision makers who picks bad software& hardware are to blame.

            It is 2012 and people still use pop3 because of these idiots.

        2. badmonkey

          Re: I don't really see a problem

          >>> As far as the bandwidth is concerned, yes you're right but for the most part emails are maybe a few 100kb max, so it's hardly the end of the world.

          What, you never send attachments?

          >>> The webmail client I have on my own server is SquirrelMail (also Horde) which both do have the mark and purge function. However when using the same account from my Android device, if I delete an item it goes directly to Deleted Items.

          Great consistency there eh. Really wonderful for users.

          >>> in reality neither does ActiveSync for the purposes of most clients. An Android or iDevice connected to Exchange 2010 and configured for push just checks mail every 5ms generating a crap load of unnecessary server load

          That's not true in recent EAS versions.

          1. Phil W

            Re: I don't really see a problem

            badmonkey:

            Yes I do send attachments, but if I sent so many that the duplication was an issue i'd turn of the IMAP folder sync for the sent items folder. Or configure my clients not to automatically download attachments over a certain size.

            The consistency issue with deletion is not really relevant to this thread, which is about Google. Their web interface doesn't do mark and purge, and you can't really hold them accountable for the users choice of software client.

          2. eulampios

            imap parts

            What, you never send attachments?

            I bet you're talking about pop, not imap. imap4 does have a body multipart handling feature in which attachments do not get downloaded when you read the text body of the email. You just sent a big attachment a you'd like to re-download it? If you want syn local with server and vice versa, pop is what you really want.

      2. Ben Holmes
        Happy

        Re: I don't really see a problem

        I don't have anything constructive to add but wow - BadMonkey really hates IMAP.

        1. badmonkey
          Devil

          Re: I don't really see a problem

          LOL not really, I've just used it for years and am pissed with the number of irritating and obvious issues with it that never got resolved. I'm also pissed with Gmail for the same reason, but in both cases I've stuck with them so go figure.

          1. eulampios

            badmonkye , imap or pop?

            Have you been misspelling "pop" as "imap" all these irritating years?

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