As Microsoft works to prepare Microsoft Exchange 2010, the venerable Microsoft Exchange is seeing new fronts open in its competition with Google.
Many skeptics see Google’s entry into Office productivity and the enterprise in general as a feint towards Microsoft to keep them distracted away from the lucrative online search and advertising markets. This skepticism crossed my mind more than once over the past few months. However, recent Google Apps service announcements show a Google Apps product road map that is maturing the service. Google Wave is another development that also has Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft’s Unified Communications Services directly in its cross hairs.
Google’s recent announcement of Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. was long overdue in my opinion. While I’ve used Gmail’s IMAP support for a while now with Outlook 2007 but I am happy with the Gmail Web interface and don’t consider Gmail’s IMAP support enterprise ready. However, I have some friends and colleagues who vehemently detest the Gmail Web interface. It’s a safe bet that enterprises considering leaving Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office behind are running into similar end user objections inside their own organizations.
Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook offers email, calendar, and contacts synchronization. It uses the offline \ Gmail protocol versus IMAP which negates one of my previous objections using Gmail with Microsoft Outlook.
Free/Busy lookup within an enterprise calendar is a necessity and Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook includes free/busy lookup and a global address list. Google touts this feature being available in Google Calendar and on the Outlook Calendar. My true hope for this feature is that it does a better job syncing calendar data than some other calendar syncing solutions that are currently available today. In my experience, calendar syncing can be a dark art and enterprise customers aren’t going to want to deal with too many duplicate calendar entries
between Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook.
Organizations moving to Google Apps for the Enterprise who plan on keeping Microsoft Office in place on their user’s desktops need to make the migration and email access as simple as possible.There is also a two-click data migration tool for copying existing date from Exchange or Outlook into Google Apps. Data migration between Exchange and Outlook into Google Apps
While Outlook is one of the preeminent corporate email clients, it would be good for Google to consider a Mac version of the client for sometime in the future especially as the upcoming Snow Leopard includes Microsoft Exchange support.
While the Gmail plug-in, even if underwhelming in its first version, it’s a necessary move for Google to capture business from organizations that aren’t willing to let Microsoft Office go if even in the initial months of a Google Apps deployment across their enterprise.
Microsoft Exchange isn’t a trivial competitor however the rapidly maturing Google Apps and Google’s enterprise strategy could pose a serious challenge in some markets.