Gmail loses Google Sync: How Windows 8, RT, Office are affected

Gmail loses Google Sync: How Windows 8, RT, Office are affected

Summary: As part of a "winter cleaning," Google plans to drop support for its most powerful sync feature for customers of its free email services. What effect will this decision have on customers using the latest versions of Windows and Office?


Gosh, it seems like only a few months ago that Google and Microsoft were happily working together on Windows 8. Back in September, I published instructions on how to connect your free Gmail account and Google Calendar and Contacts to Windows 8's built-in communications suite, the Mail/People/Contacts/Messaging apps. You end up with live tiles like these on your Start screen, with notifications of new messages and upcoming appointments appearing as they arrive:

But as of January 30, 2013, you will no longer be able to do that. That's the bottom line for Windows 8 and RT users from Google's announcement yesterday that it is dropping support for Google Sync for customers who use its free Gmail and Google Apps services. Google Sync is Google's implementation of the Exchange ActiveSync protocol, which it licensed from Microsoft in 2009. As of early next year, it will be an option for paid Google Apps customers only.

See also: Google drops Exchange ActiveSync support for free email accounts

So how does that affect Windows 8 and Windows RT?

When you set up a Google Mail account using the Mail app in Windows 8 or RT, one of two things happens.

If you set up the new account using the default options and leave the Contacts and Calendar check boxes blank, the Mail app connects to Gmail using IMAP. If necessary, it toggles the "Enable IMAP" setting on Gmail's back end, as I confirmed when I did some testing this morning.


If you select the Contacts or Calendar checkbox, however, the Mail account is set to use the EAS protocol.


The biggest advantage of EAS is that it synchronizes all types of changes using push notifications. So email arrives immediately, instead of waiting for a scheduled retrieval pass, and calendar updates you make on your desktop appear on your phone or tablet right away.

After January 30, 2013, those checkboxes will no longer allow you to set up a new mobile device with an Exchange ActiveSync connection unless you have a paid Google Apps account. Presumably, the Mail app team at Microsoft can rewrite its apps so they will use CardDAV and CalDAV to synchronize contacts and Google Calendar items. Whether (and if so, when) they do so is anybody's guess. The Mail app needs a lot of work to add and improve its core features; piling a "Rewrite Google account support" task onto the list isn't helpful.

Office 2013, which has been released to manufacturing and is due to be released to the public in early 2013, is currently unable to use EAS with Gmail. If you try, this is the error message you get:


As a result, IMAP is the default option for Gmail accounts you add to Outlook, and there's no apparent way to get contacts or calendars in sync, even if you have a paid Google Apps account. It's unclear if Google has any plans to update Google Sync for its paying customers so it works with Office 2013. I've asked both companies for comment on this issue.

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment on plans for the Windows 8 Mail app. In separate correspondence, another Microsoft spokesperson pointed to Outlook's support for IMAP and noted that Google needs to update its EAS support to version 14.0 to be compatible with Outlook 2013. 

On Apple's iOS platforms, you'll have the option of using official apps from Google. But the company has said it has no intention of writing native apps for Windows 8.

Google is hoping, of course, that Windows 8 users will be sufficiently loyal that they will install the Chrome browser and use it for Gmail and other web services. Recent releases of Chrome include the ability to set Chrome as the default browser and use it as a Windows 8 Metro-style app. (On Windows RT devices, the only option is to use Internet Explorer to access the full range of services.)

Third-party Windows 8 apps could also appear, if developers are willing to do it for free. (I'm not convinced that users who choose not to pay Google for a web service will be willing to pay for an app.)

It's a calculated and risky strategy on Google's part, which appears to be aggressively trying to increase revenue for its Google Apps service as Microsoft aggressively moves to a software-as-a-service model with Office 365. The new Office plans include Exchange Online and SkyDrive accounts that match Google feature for feature but also include access to the full suite of desktop apps for Office 2013. (See What you gain and lose with Office 2013 subscriptions for details.)

In particular, for two or more users the paid Office 365 Home Premium subscription ($100 a year for up to five devices and an unlimited number of users) might represent a better deal than multiple paid Google Apps accounts at $50 per year. And the difference between the "real" Office and the more limited Google Apps might be enough to get customers to switch.

Topics: Google Apps, Google, Microsoft, Windows, Windows 8

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • A Fine Time to Leave MS to its own devices.

    Sing to the tune of 'A Fine Time to Leave ME Lucile'. With four baby projects W7, W8, RT tablet and W phone and IE in SP1 trouble in Europe's field.o

    Maybe MS will use open interfaces and not charge royalties on what MS claims (not in court) are business standards.
    • Actually, it's time to leave the Google's walled garden

      Many users are planning to leave Gmail. They use Exchange ActiveSync because it gets the job done and IMAP doesn't.
      • Wonder who gives a damn about GMail

        I never bothered to read anything more than the first 50 message. It's collecting news letters most of the time.
        • I do and a few hundred millions more

          From last counting gmail was ahead of hotmail/outlook and yahoo.
          Guys at Google are not always right, but they are far from being stupid and this is not an innocent action.
          • Well said

            This move was cold, calculated, and delivered at the very time Microsoft is most vulnerable. It certainly changes the way I feel about Google. I'm shifting to Microsoft 100% (except for maybe Bing search).
          • Not as bad as Microsoft


            This is the company that organised finance for SCO to undermine Linux through Baystar. This is the company which developed IE to break established standards for Javascript and HTML.

            This is the company that used embrace, extend and eliminate philosophy to extinguish number of companies. Always ruthless with competitors and crushed them(Lotus, VisiCalc, Netscape, Novell to name a few. It is interesting to see MS the biggest predator in the IT arena in a vulnerable situation.

            Google is not indulging in anti-competitive behaviour. They only refuse to support a tool which has been used by MS to arrogantly beat other companies. I feel that is a good thing.
            Van Der
          • Long memory...

            You do realize all your examples are from the early to mid-1990s, before the antitrust lawsuit that dramatically changed Microsoft?

            And Google is actually exhibiting many of those same behaviors today.
            Ed Bott
          • Karma is a b.....

            I don't think MS is playing the nice guys. This is business and MS is not evil only when they can't, just like the rest.
          • How is Google...

            ...breaking NDAs and announcing its own vaporware PDA to halt competitors?
            Using embrace-extend-extinguish?
            Putting phony warning messages in their products that only appear if you're using a competitor's software?
            Using unfair licensing arrangements?

            Microsoft did not "dramatically change"; they put Ballmer in charge. The book "Barbarians Led By Bill Gates" relates how a startup came to them with a PDA with handwriting recognition. MS was shocked when they learned they wanted them to produce software for it but not an OS. Bill immediately violated the NDA, showed it to his engineers and wanted something similar. It was announced long before it was ready. A completely phony handwriting recognition demo was presented and passed off as being functional. Other software vendors held back support waiting to see what MS would do and the PDA product died, with the creator always believing that Microsoft was working on something similar the whole time and not finding out that they swiped his idea until many years later. In the end, MS produced a product years later that was a flop. One of the engineers expressed his remorse to Steve Ballmer that the product was a failure. Ballmer said to him, "You don't understand: the purpose of this wasn't to make a handheld device. The whole point was to keep anyone else from making a handheld device." And that's the guy who's CEO today.

            Ballmer only knows one thing: leverage the existing monopoly to create a new one, as demonstrated in his comment in Vanity Fair that "We'll never be the first to make something cool, but we will be the first to make a profit on it." This is exactly what MS is still doing today. As outlined in the press, Sinofsky convinced Ballmer that their phones and tablets were doomed unless Metro was put (forced) onto the desktop to (forcibly) train users on it in the hope they'll buy a Metro phone or tablet to avoid having to learn a new OS. This is why Metro can't be turned off; this is why the registry key to disable it was removed before release; this is why the VP of Windows Phone said in a conference call "Soon Metro will be the most familiar UI on the planet. And that's great for the phone business."
            Now with Windows Blue they're going to leverage (force) their existing desktop developers to become phone and tablet software vendors by mandating that new development will have to target the Windows 9 SDK which must run on desktop, tablet and phone or be rejected from the Microsoft store. Heck, they're LOCKING DOWN THE DESKTOP with the "Microsoft Store", something even Apple hasn't dared try (yet - but they will if Ballmer gets away with it).
            They're screwing partners by making their own tablets - I could write ten pages about all the partners in Microsoft's past who have come forward to tell how they were screwed.
            There's more - right now because of "security" the WinRT library can ONLY be accessed via the Visual studio C++ runtime. Embarcadero's Delphi compiler (formerly produced by Borland) obviously doesn't use the VSC++ runtime. This means that at the moment it's IMPOSSIBLE for Delphi (or any other compiler than MS') to produce Metro code!!! MS has not been helpful in finding a solution for Embarcadero. They ended up making a lookalike interface that uses the standard Windows library so it'll even run on Windows 7, but since it doesn't use WinRT your code can't end up in the Microsoft Store where people will look for (real) Metro apps. The result? Embarcadero is screwed, just like Borland was screwed when MS poached its employees. Developers don't have a path to the Microsoft Store without buying into MS' whole proprietary ecosystem of Visual Studio, etc. Browsers other than Internet Explorer are also being kept off of Surface RT by similar means, and of course only Microsoft is allowed to target the desktop on that device just like the antitrust days when they put secret undocumented functions into Windows to "test" that their own developers somehow used despite the "Great Wall Of China" Bill claimed existed between the OS and application divisions. So what's changed pre and post antitrust settlement?
            I won't even get into secure boot (your column on that lives in infamy in my mind as a shameful and disingenuous piece by an otherwise bright and competent author).

            No, Google is not in any way, shape or form behaving like the Microsoft of old, while the current Microsoft still is. Leverage the existing monopoly to create another. Same old, same old, except now with the rise of tablets and phones they're finally being forced to compete on merit (although Ballmer's going to give it one last collegiate try at using monopoly power in those markets). That's something they have little experience in and even smaller success. Don't go looking at Google for any problems MS is having in those areas today. Go ask an MS developer who bought into Silverlight lock, stock and barrel how he/she's feeling right now, or someone whose code utilizes OLEDB or who honestly believed, as many warned me many years back, that all code on Windows in the future was going to be .Net and to adjust/invest accordingly. No, nothing's changed. Bill Gates changed, but he left the company and put the guy in charge who was the right-hand man of the old Bill Gates. Without new blood and a CEO who is ethical and can instill a new sense of customer-focused engineering (rather than things like stack ranking and the "it doesn't matter what we shovel out you'll buy it anyway" mindset that led to statistical bugs in Excel lasting for 15 years and statisticians publishing papers with sub-headings such as "Does Microsoft Even Fix Bugs In Excel?" and warning all statisticians to completely avoid the product) they're destined to keep doing the same things until they become a shadow of their former selves (like RIM and Nokia).
          • you honestly believe...

            ... that Google did this because they are a moral company taking on the Big Bad Guy?
          • The 90's called...

            Most if not all the people involved in that stuff are long gone. Just fyi.
          • Um...

            Ballmer was there since the beginning and he's CEO today. He sets the tone for the company to follow. Nothing's changed, like when Putin was no longer president but became the "vice president".
          • If you hate Google for chargind customers...

   the heck must you feel about Microsoft? And they must have a warning poster about you at Apple. :-)

            Seriously, the fault here is for depending on a proprietary standard in the first place. When you do, you run the risk that it will disappear, be altered, be bought/sold, or become pay or have its price raised. That's the price, and it just became due.
          • I'm switching to Bing too

            I also decided to move to MS fully... The only thing I couldn't stop using is youtube... unfortunately.
            Google have to realize that they have got rich through users sitting on PCs running windows trusting their services well enough to create traffic for google, and hence, ads which pay for their checks!
            Simon Botros
          • Some users will leave Google/Gmail...

            I'm going to close my handful of Gmail accounts today (after I first redirect any other accounts, like LinkedIn, to my new Outlook address).

            I'm doing this for two reasons: (1) I own a Windows Phone, so what's the point of having Gmail anymore, and (2) Google has become a bully as of late.

            Whatever happened to "do no evil"? Pfft!
          • What you view as a bully

            Interesting that you feel that way. Almost every day I see another post about a free item Google has created and released to the public to use. I don't see Microsoft or Apple doing that. Gmail had a 33 minute email outage last week; response time and fix was faster than most internal IT departments could accomplish. Hell, Suddenlink cable (with many business customers in this area) had a FOUR DAY email outage, and this weekend, Frontier Communications DSL was OFFLINE for 36 hours. Fortunately I was able to access Gmail etc via 3G on my Android phone.

            Everything I see tells me that Google is a capable service that delivers.
            big red one
          • CodePlex?

            Just saying...

            WhatsThe BigIt
          • Then you aren't looking

            Apple freely released WebKit, Darwin, TB (which they gave to Intel specifically so it would be made into a cross platform standard interface) the vast majority of freeBSD code, the list goes on and on.
          • Hold on there!

            Apple didn't create webkit. It was forked from KDE (a Linux desktop that also produces tied-in applications) and later KDE and many other companies continue to contribute to webkit. KDE initially developed webkit and made it open source. Apple HAS to release their code for it per the license.

            They did release Darwin although a lot of BSD-licensed code went into that in the first place and much of the important stuff was kept closed.

            Thunderbolt? Thunderbolt was developed by INTEL with collaboration from Apple; Apple didn't gift this to anybody.

            I can't find anything about Apple contributing anything to FreeBSD and the claim about "the vast majority" is simply flat-out wrong. The arrow of time flows FreeBSD -> Darwin -> OS X. Apple contributes zilch back the other way.

            They contributed to CUPS which is used for printing on Linux and OS X. Recently they announced that they were taking all the stuff they don't need for OS X out of their version of CUPS and won't be contributing towards those other things any more. They've been closing things down and replacing open code with their own internal versions when they can. There's no stories of Apple giving back recently. but lots of tales of them trying to give open source the boot where possible.

            Jon Buys put it best this way:

            "Understanding Apple’s involvement in open source is easier if you look at it from their point of view. Apple can seem to be generous, as is the case with WebKit and their contributions to zeroconf networking, which they’ve named Bonjour, but there is a strategy behind it. Apple sells hardware, that’s where they make their money. Apple very nearly went out of business in the nineties, and were pushed into a small corner of the market by Microsoft. They’ve since recovered, and found a generous high-end niche market to operate in, but they still bear the scars of the nineties and remember what it taught them. If Apple can’t control the experience themselves, then they don’t want anyone to be able to control it. Microsoft came close to completely owning the web with Internet Explorer, and Apple knows that if there were still a lot of popular sites that required IE to function correctly, the Mac would not seem as appealing. So, it pushes open source adoption of WebKit. Apple believes in open standards, and at times open source, because it believes it can win on a level playing field. Or at least come out with a very profitable margin. So far, it seems to be working."
          • Hold on yourself

            Yes, they did. First, good job misrepresenting the history. WebKit is NOT forked from KDE, it is based on Konqueror. While Konqueror was part of a KDE project, it evinces a complete misunderstanding of the facts to call it a "fork" of KDE. Webkit itself is a fork of KHTML.
            Second, since Webkit split from KHTML in 2001 the VAST majority of WebKit code has come from Apple, and the code flows essentially one way. Essentially ZERO code posted the ongoing KHTML fork is included in WebKit.
            Third, WebKit contains a LOT more than just the KHTML-inspired WebCore and the KJS-inspired JavaScCript core. Obj-C, KWQ, OSX specific calls, has NO KHTML roots, nor does the SCG core, the CSS-handling routines, 2D and 3D graphics routines, HTML5 extensions, etc..

            Nor did KDE "intially develop WebKit". Again, they developed Konqueror, which is NOT WebKit. Nor are Apple bound by the GNU license for anything but the WebCore and JSC, as evidenced by the fact that the rest of WebKit is licensed under a BSD-type license.

            Nest, The VAST majority of code in Darwin was developed in house at either Apple or NeXT. Certainly it is stretching to truth to imply that "a lot" of Darwin was already existing BSD code.

            As for Thunderbolt, you have no idea what you are talking about. Thunderbolt started AT Apple as an extension of FireWire, and it was Apple that initially approached Intel with a loose set of specifications and project directives, that eventually gave rise to Thunderbolt, after extensive collaboration. It was speced out for Intel to develop to ensure that it became an industry-wide standard. That is just one of the reasons why the initial TB test bed in the videos Intel posted were all done on what is CLEARLY a Mac Pro.

            As for FreeBSD, you are grossly misinformed. First, the arrow is MACH>Darwin>OSX. MACH is the kernel, freeBSD just provides extensions and a POSIX compatibility layer.. OSX does NOT use the freeBSD kernel. That said, the time arrow is wholly irrelevant! Of course freeBSD predates OSX! What, exactly, is your point. If you want to see a record of who contributed that, you merely have to go to the CVS repository.
            As to your "stories", they are a load of bunk, pure and simple.

            Your choice of the Jon Buys quote is telling, both in what it says (that is flat out wrong) and what it fails to say. For one thing, it fails to back up ANYTHING that you wrote, so one wonders what your point was in posting it. It certainly does not ANYWHERE support your claim that Apple is pulling back from contributing to open source. It merely discusses its motives for using it. As for what it does say, it gets quite a bit wrong. For instance, Apple was NEVER in any danger of going out of business. The only way one could make this statement is out of total ignorance. For one thing, during this period in the nineties, when Apple was supposedly on the verge or going out of business, at NO point did Apple EVER have less the 2 BILLION dollars in liquid capital. NEVER. They were hardly in any danger.
            But again, the quote you cited isn't even relevant, anyway.