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Google beds Microsoft for mobile sync service

Who's the big dog now?

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Microsoft has - once again - leveraged its muscle in collaboration and email for mobile services to bring one of its biggest rivals to heel.

Online-ads and search powerhouse Google has licensed Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync so users running Microsoft Outlook email, calendar, and contacts can work with its Google Sync service, unveiled as a beta today. ActiveSync will run on servers for Google Sync.

Google Synch lets Apple iPhones and Windows Mobile devices synchronize contacts and calendar events with Google's host of web-based applications. The app adds additional mobile devices to the Google Synch platform on top of its existing tool for Blackberry phones.

The announcement came a year after Microsoft mobile rival Apple said it too had licensed ActiveSync for iPhones. ActiveSync is Microsoft’s protocol to push email from server to client and provide wireless synchronization of calendar and contact information.

Google has also joined Nokia, Palm, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson in licensing ActiveSync.

Redmond was pleased as punch to boast that Google Sync "is made possible" by ActiveSync running on Google's servers.

The development proves that despite Google dwarfing Microsoft online, Microsoft remains the big dog when it comes to getting serious business adoption of your services through mobile devices.

Microsoft has a broad and deep presence in email and collaboration, thanks to years spent building up Office and Exchange. Such are their presence and the fact they are the medium for so much business communication and repositories for mundane but important data that most business customers could simply not use phones from companies Apple or services from Google unless they support Outlook and Exchange.

Interestingly, Microsoft’s pivotal role in Google’s planned service emerged as plans for Microsoft’s own online calendar and contacts service for mobile took another step forward. A Microsoft web site promoting its planned MyPhone site emerged, with the service expected to target just Windows Mobile 6.x devices.

Just like the planned MyPhone, Google’s service is labeled as beta - although with Google, that's only rarely a useful way to gauge a project's completeness. At this point, however, Google warned there are still several kinks to work out.

For example, synching Google Calendar events to the iPhone doesn't currently reflect attendee status. Sometimes, synching more than five calendars also makes all calendars be displayed in bright cyan or yellow on the iPhone, making the calendar app rather hard to use.

"Since Sync is a two-way service, you can make changes on your phone or in your Google Account. Your calendar and contacts are always up-to-date, no matter where you are or what you're doing. Also, since your data is automatically backed up to your Google Account, it's securely stored even if you lose your phone," wrote Google software engineer Bryan Mawhinney in a blog post ®

Additional reporting by Gavin Clarke

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