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Google Licenses Microsoft's ActiveSync

Google has licensed a patent from Microsoft that will allow synchronization of Exchange Server and the popular Gmail service.

Microsoft announced the patent license as Google today released the beta of software that will provide synchronization of its e-mail, contact and scheduling services with Apple iPhones and devices based on Windows Mobile. The software, called Google Sync, will automatically synchronize the Gmail data with the mobile devices, the company said on its Google Mobile Blog.

Google Sync is bi-directional, meaning changes either made on the phone or entered through a traditional Web connection will synchronize. For phones that support the Open Mobile Alliance SyncML specification, Google Sync will synchronize contact data, as well. Google Sync is already available for Research In Motion BlackBerry devices.

With Microsoft's ActiveSync added to the mix, iPhone and Windows Mobile users will be able to synchronize Exchange data with Gmail accounts, though Google did not address whether the pact will extend to Google's Android platform, the company's new mobile operating system.

"That's one of the big unknowns right now," said Philippe Winthrop, director of the global wireless practice at Strategy Analytics, a Newton, Mass.-based market research firm. If Microsoft were to let Google license ActiveSync to Android, as it did last year for the iPhone, Winthrop said it would take a key competitive benefit away from Windows Mobile.

"Two-way Gmail, Calendar and Contacts sync is already available on Android via the platform's native Gmail, Calendar and Contacts applications," a Google spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Nevertheless, Winthrop said while his iPhone has ActiveSync, he found it does not work as seamlessly with Exchange Server as his Windows Mobile-based phone. For now, Android is not widely used for enterprise apps, though the first device was only released last summer.

Even if ActiveSync turns out to be an equalizer as it becomes pervasive across mobile platforms, Winthrop said Microsoft needs to raise the bar when it reveals its plans for Windows Mobile 6.5 and Windows Mobile 7.0 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, as expected.

"It's not just a question of market share, it's a question of mind share," Winthrop said. "And right now, Microsoft is losing the mind share game."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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