Microsoft and Google’s Game of “Office Chicken” is Just Alienating Users

by Patrick Moorhead   |   May 28th, 2013

Google and Microsoft are battling it out on a lot of fronts, but many times there is little collateral damage to end users. Unfortunately, in a few cases, end users have been cast aside in the spirit of strategic lockouts and bickering. Two immediate examples are the Windows Phone YouTube app and the battle of the calendar. I’d like to drill-down into Google dropping EAS and Microsoft not supporting calDAV in MS Office to highlight just how much these two giants are damaging the end user and I’ll end suggesting a unique solution.

It all started with Google’s “Winter cleaning” in December where they decided to stop supporting Microsoft Exchange Active Sync (EAS). This meant that Microsoft products like Outlook and even Windows Mail and Calendar 8 would no longer work if they were connected using EAS. It also screwed over users like me who run their businesses off of Google Apps who wanted to use the calendar inside Windows 8 for use with their Windows 8 touch devices. I already used Outlook and synced with Google Apps using Google Sync free of charge. At the time, Google Sync didn’t work with Office 2013, so I was stuck with Office 2010 which is a horrible touch experience.

Microsoft could have invested some work into their offline or online calendars to work with calDAV, but they didn’t, and I believe that it was for the “Scroogled” cause, not because it’s difficult. You see, 20 person development shops or less support calDAV. At a minimum, Microsoft could have been more transparent about why they weren’t supporting calDAV or whether they would ever support it.

I’ve tried many times to get away from Outlook. I may be in the minority, but I cannot run a small business off of web mail and calendar. Some can do this just fine, but many of us need a real app, not a web app as it’s faster, has better offline capabilities than Google Calendar and has many more robust features. I tried Thunderbird, eM Client, Zimbra, but they all have fatal flaws; eM Client doesn’t support conversation email, Thunderbird requires the buggiest of calendar and address book plug-ins, and Zimbra is this odd web-app that didn’t connect with my Google Apps Contacts. For a Windows 8 touch experience, I just hid the Windows app and placed an Explorer link on my desktop to my Google Apps Calendar.

Last week, Google announced that Google Sync finally supports Office 2013. I was very excited, because this may enable me to have my Windows 8 desktop and Metro touch experience in one app. I installed Google Sync and the calendar wasn’t syncing. I uninstalled Sync and reinstalled it. That reinstall failed and it said I should reinstall Office. I uninstalled Office and reinstalled Office and then Sync. No joy. I searched for the problem and found it here. The forum post says,

Hi XYZ,We apologize for any inconvenience caused, we’ve identified an issue with Google Apps Sync with Microsoft Outlook 3.3.354.948 which can cause calendar events to not sync. Mail and contacts are not affected. Our engineers are aware of the issue and are currently investigating. You can also find this information on our known issues page referenced.

Regards, PDQ”

In other words, you can’t sync your calendars with Office 2013 or 2010, we don’t know root cause, and don’t know when it will be fixed. Thankfully, Google did provide a link that did work with Office 2010 but remember, 2010 doesn’t work well at all with touch and that’s what I am trying to solve.

I am going through this excruciating detail to emphasize a point: It’s users who are getting caught in the cross-fire between Microsoft and Google, and when they do, it wastes a lot of time and money and causes a lot of consternation. If I could punt both Microsoft and Google for office productivity, I would.

There is a solution though, and one that may surprise you. If you are a Mac user, you know what I am talking about here. You see, Macs work great with Google services, supporting IMAP for mail, calDAV for calendar, and carDAV for contacts and tasks. It’s built right into the native programs bundled with every Mac. Macs don’t support touch, yet, but if you are a consumer or a small business owner like me who is wedded to Google Apps and need a good desktop experience, then you need to strongly consider going to the Mac.

The moral of the story here is that by messing with users to play big company games with power plays, Microsoft and Google both risk alienating their base of users and driving them into the arms of Apple, at least in this situation. Users don’t like to be forced to do anything they don’t want to and want the freedom of choice. In a way, I hope losing users to Apple would shed some light a fire inside Microsoft and Google not to mess with users as this would be good in the long run.

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick Moorhead was ranked the #1 technology industry analyst by Apollo Research for the U.S. and EMEA in May, 2013.. He is President and Principal Analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a high tech analyst firm focused on the ecosystem intersections of the phone, tablet, PC, TV, datacenter and cloud. Moorhead departed AMD in 2011 where he served as Corporate Vice President and Corporate Fellow in the strategy group. There, he developed long-term strategies for mobile computing devices and personal computers. In his 11 years at AMD he also led product management, business planning, product marketing, regional marketing, channel marketing, and corporate marketing. Moorhead worked at Compaq Computer Corp. during their run to the #1 market share leader position in personal computers. Moorhead also served as an executive at AltaVista E-commerce during their peak and pioneered cost per click e-commerce models.
  • Krabbie

    Maybe a better title would be “Apple Saves the Day in MSFT Vs Goog Chicken Poop Fight”. I thought of the Mac solution way up in the article. Why not just move to Apple like you suggested? ;-))

  • http://twitter.com/w_jackson w_jackson

    Be careful about the Mac support…

    I’ve been able to subscribe to google calendars via calDAV but have not been able to have my google calendar subscribe to calDAV calendars. It appears that Google’s “support” of calDAV is only “one way” and only supports stuff that resides on Google servers

  • http://www.companionlink.com Rushang S.

    Save the “Office Chicken” by using 3rd party apps like CompanionLink to do what Microsoft and Google no longer do; keep Outlook 2013 and Gmail/Google Apps in sync. Calendar works great, in addition to Contacts and Tasks.

  • David

    Time for you to break away from consumer products and move to business software. Let me introduce you to IBM Notes. It crushes Outlook as a mail client, not to mention it is actually an application development environment supporting Java, xpages, javascript, and more.

    Toss the Google Apps AND expensive Microsoft Office and go to OpenOffice
    (free). If you want a cloud solution for your word processing, etc, go
    to IBM Docs, a part of their complete cloud solution for businesses
    call IBM SmartCloud for Social Business which also includes an amazing component they have branded as Social
    Business. You gotta see what it does to fully appreciate it and they
    are the first and only ones to have this functionality that will surely
    be the next generation of business communication and collaboration. Check it out at http://www.ibm.com/social-business/us/en/

    • John123

      I have used Notes 8 and Outlook 2010/2013. Notes is very primitive compare to Outlook. My Notes is slow. With Outlook speed is great. 3rd party plugins plenty and great VBA platform for minor customization. I have seen a big company migrate over to Outlook from Notes. Ah how I wish my company would do the same.

  • Andrea

    Maybe you should just use Outlook calendar and ditch Google calendar altogether. Seems like an easy fix.

    • Common sense

      Nice try, Steve ballmer. Giving in to Microsoft bullying is never a fix to anything. If you want to go there, he lists the fact that macs use entirely open standards for colander, contacts and mail. So why shouldn’t he just move to Mac?

  • EddieInFL

    From a user standpoint–this just STINKS! I have used MS Office calendar on my Windows Computers and sync with Google calendar which works fine on my Android phones. The syncronization was “perfect” and allowed us to make appointments on any phone, our Android pad, or on any of our 4 computers. Now I can’t do that, and I really don’t care “Who’s Fault It Is”–just FIX IT!
    If I can’t get this resolved, and quickly, I’ll be forced to junk both Microsoft AND Google and start using Apple Products. I just want to run my small business, not deal with a bunch of “babies”.

  • ucs75

    Keep in mind that Zimbra is NOT some weird web app like you stated….that’s just the webmail portal. That would be like stating that Exchange is some weird web-app because you had used the OWA interface.

    Zimbra Pro syncs with Outlook via a connector (and I believe supports EAS as well), and the FOSS definitely supports EAS when you add a Zextras subscription. I just use FOSS with Zextras for our people. We get CalDAV, CarDAV, and EAS. Easy and done.