Come on, Microsoft.
Redmond finally issued a statement today in response to Google's decision to cut off Exchange ActiveSync support to personal, non-enterprise users — a decision that renders Windows Phone effectively unable to handle contacts and calendars stored in Google's cloud.
There's very little love lost between these two giants
To put it bluntly, that sucks. It's a low blow to Windows Phone owners and would-be owners alike, many of whom use Google services, have been using them for years, and either cannot or do not wish to uproot their online lives to accommodate a smartphone that can easily be replaced by alternatives running Android or iOS. Microsoft called it "disappointing," which is an understatement. From Google's perspective, cutting ActiveSync support could've been as simple as shaving a few dollars in licensing off its bottom line, but the reality is likely far more political: there's very little love lost between these two ecosystem giants who've been warring across large swathes of their businesses for years.
It's a shame that Google seems to think it's okay to conscript Windows Phone users as pawns in a multibillion-dollar game of chess, yes — but when Microsoft says that it was "surprised" by the move, it's either lying or tremendously incompetent. I know a lot of really bright and wonderful people up in Redmond, so I'm betting on the former.
Google enabled CardDAV in September, which was the precise moment that Microsoft should've seen the writing on the wall. It meant that Google finally had the trifecta of open standards in place to support email (via IMAP), calendars (via CalDAV), and contacts without paying an undisclosed — and likely significant — licensing fee to Microsoft to keep the ActiveSync pipe alive to service non-Android mobile users. Windows Phone has always supported IMAP, but it doesn't support DAV.
Google's move was merely a speed bump, not a dead end
And to be clear, nothing has prevented Microsoft from implementing DAV support in Windows Phone, just as Apple did to iOS in 2010. Google's move was merely a speed bump, not a dead end. Android doesn't natively support DAV, but there's a big difference: Android already enjoys overwhelming support and market penetration globally. Windows Phone has no such luxury. It can't afford to alienate users, nor ignore any segment of the potential market. If born-and-bred Google users with no intention of shucking their workflow want to sample a Nokia Lumia 920 or an HTC 8X, they need to be able to do so without trouble and without compromise.
Instead, Microsoft says "...now is a perfect time to join the millions who have already made the choice to upgrade to Outlook.com." That's not helpful, it's tone-deaf. It's a middle finger aimed at Mountain View, not a sympathetic and encouraging note of reassurance to users.
In the meantime, I can't go back to using a Windows Phone
Might Microsoft quietly be working on DAV support behind the scenes, perhaps for inclusion in Windows Phone 8.5 or 9? Yes, of course. And perhaps it's been cranking on it since Google started offering CardDAV in September. But regardless, this wasn't an opportunity for Microsoft to promote Outlook at users' expense — it was an opportunity to show Google and the entire industry that it's on the ball, that it's reading a play or two ahead. At the very least, it should be telegraphing to users that help is on the way.
But now, it's overplaying its hand in the early rounds of a brewing ecosystem war.
In the meantime, this crippling rift means I can't go back to using a Windows Phone, no matter how good it is, how many apps it has, or how colorful Nokia's phones become. And I'd be willing to bet a few of the nearly half-billion Gmail users out there are in the same boat.