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Google wraps Gmail and Co. in Microsoft comfort blanket

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As part of its ongoing effort to destroy Microsoft Exchange, Google has unleashed a new tool that lets you access its so-called cloud apps via Outlook - Redmond's very own Exchange client.

With Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, you can tap Google's web-happy Gmail, Calendar, and Contacts services directly from Redmond's client - a piece of old-school desktop software that some find comforting.

"Sometimes there are people who just love Outlook," says Googler Eric Orth, in a post to the official Google Enterprise Blog. "For them, we've developed Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook."

Yes, thanks to IMAP, you can already use tap Gmail from Outlook. And there are third-party tools that let you sync Google Calendar and Google Contacts with Redmond's client. But Google's new Outlook plug-in - available for Windows machines only, not Macs - is designed to make things all the easier.

"There's third-parties out there that provide some products that allow for integration, but they put a greater burden on the IT people at the company moving to [Google Apps]," says Ed Laczynski, CTO of LTech, a self-described cloud-technology integrator based in New Jersey. "Google providing this product should allow all that resistance to go away."

Google's Outlook plug-in is free to anyone who's already paying for the Google Apps Premier Edition or using the no-charge Education Edition. Google asks $50 per year per user for the Premier option.

No, the plug-in doesn't preclude you from accessing Google's apps via the browser. And it offers a migration tool for copying existing data from Exchange or Outlook into Google Apps.

So, it's more of the same from Google. In January, the Mountain View ad broker added off-line support to Gmail. In April, it let you sync its cloudy mail service with an LDAP user directory system a la Microsoft Active Directory or Lotus Domino. And in May, it gave you the option of tapping Gmail, Calendar, and Contacts straight from software built into that ubiqutious business-world handheld, the RIM BlackBerry.

Google is so intent on destroying Exchange, it's even willing to remove the beta tag from eternally-betafied Google Apps. Or maybe not. ®

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