A few days ago Microsoft released a beta for Office Outlook Connector 12.1; essentially a plugin for Microsoft’s near-ubiquitous email client that helps address some of the issues we’ve discussed previously at Web Worker Daily including Jailbreaking Hotmail and Exchange-ing Microsoft for Google.
Microsoft Office Outlook Connector provides Outlook users with the capability of synchronizing messages, calendars and contacts with Hotmail and Office Live Mail accounts, effectively providing offline access for those web-based services – and perhaps more importantly, the ability to make that data portable and transferable to other services, such as Gmail.
Previously, the Outlook Connector was a premium service offered to MSN customers, but this incarnation is free to use, though of course, this may change once the beta period is complete. For MSN customers already paying for the older service, they’ll be automatically upgraded to the Live Mail and Live Calendar editions of Hotmail and MSN Calendar.
Though other web-bases services such as Yahoo and Gmail do offer offline access for messages via various IMAP and POP options, offline calendar and contact data remains haphazardly implemented (as illustrated by Google’s recent launch of OS X contact synchronization).
For once it seems Microsoft is ahead of the Web 2.0 crowd with a release that’s profoundly useful – though as rumors build for more and more Google Gears enabled offline applications, it’s a lead that won’t last much longer. On the other hand, Adobe AIR applications may be the carrier for this new wave of applications.
You can download the Outlook Connector 12.1 beta here…