My rant earlier this year about the uselessness of Microsoft's ActiveSync synchronisation manager appeared to strike a chord with readers, and unfortunately that's a gong that Microsoft appears determined to keep banging.
Recently, I met with Karen Carter, the director of global communications for Microsoft's mobile and embedded devices division. Carter assured me that the combination of ActiveSync 4.2 and Windows Mobile 5.0 "worked great".
To prove the point, Microsoft gave me a new-model iMate so I could experience the combination for myself.
The device and ActiveSync worked fine -- for a week. Then yesterday, for no obvious reason, ActiveSync decided to throw a wobbly, producing an error message which said "try again later" and a support code.
The support code was a waste of time, since there's no matching information on the Microsoft Web site -- and even a broader Google search was no real help. The built-in ActiveSync trouble shooter was a waste of time, since it reported that everything was working normally.
In the ultimate insult, eventually -- and again for no obvious reason -- this morning ActiveSync suddenly decided to pretend that it was working again. I say "pretend" because none of the changes I made on the device the previous day (notably, deleting unwanted e-mail) were actually reflected on my desktop.
At this point, the mere idea of ever being able to reliably synchronise again is out the window.
It would seem to me that a product with a 4.2 version number might have some half-decent online support, and might actually do the task it was designed for. Obviously, Microsoft views the world differently.
For evidence that Microsoft doesn't really take ActiveSync seriously, you need look no further than Windows Vista.
Vista will include one sort-of-major advance on Windows XP for ActiveSync users: Windows Update will automatically check for updates for ActiveSync as well, so the traditional "Have you got the latest version?" question should effectively disappear.
However, this approach is being somewhat undermined by the fact that you'll still have to download ActiveSync the very first time you use it. For reasons that even Microsoft officials can't adequately explain, while there's going to be half-a-dozen versions of Vista, none will include ActiveSync as standard.
Apparently all those mobile phones and PDAs aren't a significant market.
Then again, with code this bad, maybe there's no point in spreading it around. Me, I'm going to have to start seriously looking for another solution for my mobile diary and e-mail needs.