Up until two years ago, I swore by a hosted Microsoft Exchange account (s MSFT). For under $100 a year, I had the security and reliability of my email on a solid Exchange server. I also enjoyed direct push email to my handset. At that time, that was a Microsoft Windows Mobile device.
Fast-forward to today. I’ve been using Google’s Gmail (s GOOG) for both personal and work mail over the last 18 months. Google Sync is now supported on various handset platforms like S60, BlackBerry (s RIMM), iPhone (s AAPL) and more. And now Google has fit another piece to the puzzle with its Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. With the free plugin for Google Apps users, it’s offering a potentially effective replacement for Microsoft Exchange. You can keep running Microsoft Outlook but use Google Apps Gmail as the back-end, which saves time and money, both in infrastructure as well as support costs. I’m sure not all of the Exchange bells and whistles are in there, but give it time. Google is able to capitalize on its web platform by iterating often. That’s its secret sauce, which really shouldn’t be a secret after all these years. Here’s a high-level rundown of the support:
- Email, calendar, and contacts synchronization. For email, the plug-in uses the offline Gmail protocol, which is much faster than IMAP or other methods.
- Free/Busy lookup and Global Address List functionality, which makes it easy to schedule meetings with your colleagues, regardless of whether they use Outlook’s calendar or Google Calendar.
- A simple, two-click data migration tool which allows employees to easily copy existing data from Exchange or Outlook into Google Apps.
Semi-related: I’m watching a developing trend take place in relation to Microsoft. It seems like it’s really starting to fight battles on multiple fronts from different competitors. A few years back, only a few contenders were in the mix, but now it appears like attacks are coming in from all sides on a daily basis. Apple, Google and others are hitting it hard on the mobile handset front. Various Linux platforms are attacking on the netbooks. Zoho and Google are challenging on the productivity side. And now Google is landing a firm uppercut on chin with the once untouchable Exchange. The question now: Will Microsoft withstand the barrage or will a glass chin appear?