Google made a particularly troublesome announcement yesterday that Google Sync support would be discontinued after January 30th of 2013. Google Sync is what provides ActiveSync capability to Google accounts for syncing email, calendar, and contact information to various devices. While it was previously associated with mobile phones, ActiveSync has begun to take a role in several desktop clients as well, most notably Windows 8′s Mail app. Likewise, Outlook 2013 also offers the ability to sync accounts via ActiveSync, along with more traditional protocols like IMAP and MAPI.
Google decided that it no longer wants to support Microsoft’s protocol, though, saying:
Google Sync was designed to allow access to Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts via the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync® protocol. With the recent launch of CardDAV, Google now offers similar access via IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV, making it possible to build a seamless sync experience using open protocols. Starting January 30, 2013, consumers won’t be able to set up new devices using Google Sync; however, existing Google Sync connections will continue to function. Google Sync will continue to be fully supported for Google Apps for Business, Government and Education. Users of those products are unaffected by this announcement.
To put it bluntly, Google is screwing users who opt to not use Google’s platforms in order to get their email. Android users will still experience the same performance they’re used to via the Gmail app. Likewise, iOS users have a dedicated Gmail app of their own, most likely because Google can’t afford to blatantly screw such a large portion of the market. Anyone using Windows Phone, Windows 8, or Outlook 2013 will be screwed, though. The idea that IMAP is going to be just as good for email as ActiveSync is laughable. While ActiveSync is capable of pushing email to clients, IMAP has to do a pull at a scheduled interval. So you either leave the interval at something like 15 minutes and risk taking a longer time to receive your messages, or you increase the pull time to just a few minutes and watch as it destroys your device’s battery. Either way, the user loses.
While my existing Gmail ActiveSync connection in Mail will continue to function, I hate to rely on it now. If I decide to format my computer or if the connection is broken for any reason I would be left using Gmail with an archaic IMAP setup. That’s such a step backwards from what I’ve become accustomed to that I can’t conceive of using it again. Likewise, Google has already stated that they have no plans of supporting users on Windows Phone or Windows 8. Clay Bavor, Google Apps product management director, has been quoted as saying:
We are very careful about where we invest and will go where the users are but they are not on Windows Phone or Windows 8.
Given Google’s stance of doing what it feels is best for it rather than what is best for the users, I made a decision to do what is best for me. While Gmail integrates very nicely with my Android phone, I’ve decided to move my primary personal email over to Outlook.com. My existing Microsoft ID there already integrates incredibly well with my Windows 8 installation. Since Microsoft supports users rather than trying to force everyone to their own platform, I can add the account as an ActiveSync account to my Android device. It will be basically the same experience that I’m used to with Gmail on Android. The only headache for me will be changing my email address in my plethora of online accounts to point to Outlook rather than Gmail. I imagine it will take a few months of seeing what services continue to send mail to my Gmail account so that I can update them accordingly.
Needless to say, I’m incredibly disappointed with Google over this turn of events. I still remember back when I got my first Gmail account and I was amazed at how Google was revolutionizing consumer email. As time progresses, though, Google seems more concerned about forcing users onto their own platforms than making their quality services widely accessible, and that’s something that bothers me quite a bit. While I have a feeling that I’ll be in the minority of individuals taking a stance against this, I’m hopeful that others will give Google some negative backlash for this move. By the same token, more individuals need to give Microsoft the kudos they deserve for continuing to make an accessible, usable product that gives users the freedom of choice.