Microsoft Outlook for Mac: Google Apps Fail

Microsoft Outlook for Mac: Google Apps Fail

Summary: How can Microsoft create a product that's so right, and still manage to get it wrong?

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Come on, Microsoft, now you're not even pretending

Regular readers of Tech Broiler over the past year have come to expect that I tend to rant about certain subjects in the tech world that irritate me, and today's article comes as no exception.

As you may be aware, I use Windows 7 on my primary computer, an Apple MacBook Air 11. However, I also use Ubuntu on my server, and I have an installation of Mac OS X on an external drive for system updates to my laptop.

For the past couple of days I've been playing with OS X, installing apps that duplicate what I do on my Windows system. In case you're asking why I would do that, well, I'm a tinkerer. I like to play around with my systems. My wife always jokes that I'm not happy until I break something. Case-in-point, my last attempt to see if I could switch to Ubuntu as my primary laptop OS. It didn't go as well as I'd hoped.

Also Read: Ubuntu Linux: I like it but it doesn't like me

Since I don't use OS X as my primary operating system, I tend to ignore most issues with it until I actually need to know about them. The other day I discovered something that I found to be quite annoying in Microsoft's Outlook 2011 for Mac. It turns out that Microsoft did not include the ability to subscribe to a web-based calendar in Outlook, which previously existed in Entourage. Syncing contacts works just fine.

In Outlook 2010 for Windows, you can access your Google calendar directly within Outlook, or you can use Google's free calendar sync app. Contact sync is available through a number of free and paid third-party add-ons. If you have a paid Google Apps account, you can get a free app that lets you sync calendar and contacts to Outlook 2010.

Digging deeper, this has been a known issue for over a year, discussed widely during the beta program. Microsoft has claimed that this functionality will be included in a service pack during Q1/Q2 of 2011. Thing is, they've known about this issue for quite a while, and could have added the code to do it during the beta process and chose not to.

This is typical Microsoft. As it stands, the only way to have synchronized calendars is to either have an Exchange server at home or work, or pay for an outsourced Exchange email service. I wouldn't put it past Microsoft to have done this deliberately in order to generate Exchange sales, and encourage people to not pay for Google Apps service.

It's not like it would be the first time they've done something to deliberately control the market in their favor while cutting off their competitors. I'm betting it won't be the last. That's just my opinion; of course, it also seems to have been the opinion of the US Department of Justice.

Look, I'm just an individual user. I don't need an Exchange account, and I don't even need a paid Google Apps account. If I was working in a company with 50 or more people, an Exchange server or outsourced service would be justifiable. I would even recommend it, since Exchange has probably the best shared calendaring available.

Heck, I might even be able to write off the expense of the account on my yearly taxes. But that's not the point. Interoperability existed before, and now it does not. Keep in mind, I *did* try using the iCal and Mail apps in OS X. I'm sorry, but they suck. Absolutely awful. On the other hand, if you want a standalone app that's not browser-based, Zimbra has a decent, free desktop client that works with most free email services. It's not bad, but it's a damn sight better than the ones Apple provided in OS X.

I've been using Outlook since it was the Microsoft Mail client for Windows 95 and NT 4.0. I happen to like it. Heck, I happen to like the new Outlook 2011 for Mac as well, in spite of the differences. I just wish that it actually had the same capabilities as the older application for Windows.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Microsoft, Open Source, Software, Windows

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51 comments
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  • You're making things WAY too complicated for yourself, Scott.

    Of course, if you like to tinker with software and stuff, then knock yourself out. But I would like to hear some specific gripes you have about iCal and Mail (other than that they suck). I use them constantly, and don't feel that way at all.
    Userama
    • RE: Come on, Microsoft, now you're not even pretending

      @Userama Can you pull up a complete list of all of your appointments in iCal? I have a lot more control and flexibility with my email, calendar and contacts in Outlook than I do with pretty much any other mail client. And considering how much I use it, I don't want to have to settle for less.
      Scott Raymond
      • Follow the iOS example

        People have been freaking out that iOS devices don't have removable batteries, don't have memory card slots, don't support flash and so forth. The answer in 100% of these cases is easy: remove the requirement for having those features and the iOS device, while not perfect, does work without flaws. It is a simple matter of modifying your requirements to fit the product. And it has worked because iOS devices are the #1 selling product in the world. By far. And Apple's customer satisfaction is #1 in the world. By far.

        So Scott, I would recommend that you simply abandon the requirement that you be able to pull up a complete list of all your appointments in iCal. Suddenly, there is no need for Outlook and suddenly, an all Apple solution is the right solution.
        edtimes
      • Although that is a nice idea...

        @edtimes

        Although that is a nice idea, It does not work in the real world. For example, Let's say you really like a car but it is too small or does not have long enough leg room for you because you are tall. Going by your suggestion to remove the requirements would simply mean cutting your legs off doesn't it? Pretty much means do whatever you have to just to be able to use a certain thing.
        lenohere
      • Who said anything about cutting off legs?

        Dude, no one said anything about doing any physical damage to yourself. That would be crazy.
        edtimes
      • Message has been deleted.

        BubbaJones_
      • Follow the iOS example

        @edtimes

        "And it has worked because iOS devices are the #1 selling product in the world."

        You forgot to mention here the you mean world=North America here. Outside North America, and Europe may be, few people have heard of Apple, and guess what, even Apple have not heard of those countries, that's why they are yet to launch their products there.
        Raju Das
      • RE: Come on, Microsoft, now you're not even pretending

        @Scott Raymond I have abandoned any requirements for any features that Windows or Mac applications have and now I can use Ubuntu as my full time OS. Why didn't I think of that!!!
        tietchen
      • RE: Come on, Microsoft, now you're not even pretending

        @edtimes

        #1 selling product in the world? Rice?
        jeverettk
      • RE: Come on, Microsoft, now you're not even pretending

        @edtimes I hope you were joking... You are a google-fan trying to pass as an apple-fan, perhaps?
        Yuniverse
      • As if there weren't other problems.

        Like Outlook's refusal to show a real E-mail address instead of the "name" of the sender. Even if you try to examine that field, the inept dialog is too short to show anything useful.

        It's clear that almost all of the talented UI people left Microsoft ages ago.
        dgurney
      • RE: Come on, Microsoft, now you're not even pretending

        @edtimes

        So, your approach in choosing the right device for you is:
        1. Choose an Apple device
        2. List that device's functionalities
        3. Use that list as your requirements
        4. Compare your requirements with the Apple's device list of functionalities
        Conclusion: the Apple device is perfect for you.

        Don't know about the rest but I'm sold.
        Joaquim Amado Lopes
    • RE: Come on, Microsoft, now you're not even pretending

      Microsoft for Mac, well it is not the first they have done. Google in the other hand is one of Microsoft long time buddy as some Microsoft Windows versions supports Google Apps.

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      rebeca.flanders
  • Oh right, that HUGE market of Mac users using...

    Outlook to connect to their google cal was just too ripe a target for MS to passup. Really?<br><br>While frustrating, I'd just chalk it up to it being a low priority feature, to connect Outlook to a competitors calendar, on a low priority product, Outlook for Mac.
    pmcgrath@...
  • RE: Come on, Microsoft, now you're not even pretending

    This issue is a real problem for me too. I was going to get rid of our Exchange 2003 server and take us to Google Apps during the summer break but the two head administrators are my only two mac users and they want Outlook 2011 to work with it. Not sure which direction I'll go now.
    Admin71
    • RE: Come on, Microsoft, now you're not even pretending

      @Bookmark71 I bought Office 2011 mainly for Outlook which I had used for a very long time under windows and loved the product...however it is severely crippled now in terms of the calendar. No sync with an iPhone for example. My solution until MS comes up with a real calendar has been to use Thunderbird and google calendar so now I have ONE calendar across all my toys (iPhone, Mac, WEB) and it does work very well indeed. When MS comes out with that capability in outlook 2011 I may switch back. I also understand that Zimbra would have the same as my installation of TBird.
      Bradish@...
  • Don't use MS products on your Mac. Problem solved!

    There is no reason to ever use a Microsoft product on your Mac. Microsoft can't make good hardware (RROD Xbox!) can't make good software (Bob!) can't make good media players (Brown Zune that squirts!) can't make good phones (Kin!) can't make good stocks (stagnant stock price for 10 years) can't make secure software (Windows is infected within 10 minutes of being connected to Internet) can't make good leaders (Monkey Boy!) the list goes on and on.

    Don't use MS products ever. All problems solved.
    edtimes
    • RE: Come on, Microsoft, now you're not even pretending

      @edtimes Let's all bow down before his royalness Jobs and think different!
      jatbains
      • RE: Come on, Microsoft, now you're not even pretending

        @jatbains yes, it seems edtimes is living in a different time than the rest of the world.
        xplorer1959
    • let's go through that list

      @edtimes

      1.) RROD Xboxes...you mean the ones that MS repaired or replaced, even if out of warranty?
      2.) Bob...the 15-year-old software that has LONG been deprecated? Do you run any 15-year-old software on your Mac?
      3.) The Zune was actually a good player with a good software ecosystem. The color sucked, I'll give you that...but it largely failed due to its late entry into the field and the craptastic marketing MS gave it.
      4.) The Kin failed because it was the same price as its competitors and had less than half the features, while requiring the same expensive data plan. Windows Phone 7 seems to be widely liked by reviewers, though the general public seems to be inclined to follow your twisted logic as well.
      5.) I own several machines that run Windows and run quite well and have done so for years, thanks. Heck, maybe one day I'll attempt a default Windows 7 install on a machine, plug it into a cable modem with a public IP, and see what happens.
      6.) While I'm no Steve Ballmer fan, what remotely rational line of thinking says that a company manufactures a good leader?

      Joey
      voyager529