Microsoft Outlook for Mac: Google Apps Fail

How can Microsoft create a product that's so right, and still manage to get it wrong?
Written by Scott Raymond, Inactive

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.

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