Microsoft is starting to roll out a new version of the Metro "productivity" apps Mail, Calendar, and People. The update has a few significant improvements, but there's this one little problem Microsoft doesn't warn you about: While the old Metro Calendar app would sync with your Google Calendar, the new one doesn't. (One exception: If you have a paid-for Gmail account, it should continue to sync with the Metro Calendar app -- at least in theory.)
After you upgrade Mail, Calendar, and People (they all come together), the first time the Metro apps try to sync with a Google Calendar, you see this message:
Reconnect this account / We can't connect to firstname.lastname@example.org because Google no longer supports ActiveSync. Reconnect to get your email and contacts using a different method. Cancel to save your email drafts and reconnect later.
If you click on the "Learn more" link, Microsoft then treats you to a (largely accurate) retelling of Google's decision to drop Exchange ActiveSync support for free Google accounts. Without Exchange ActiveSync support, Microsoft's new Metro Calendar app can't pull appointments from your Google Calendar, nor can it push changes made inside the Metro Calendar back on to Google Calendar. Mail syncs because it can use IMAP, which is supported on both sides. But Calendar's another story. Bad Google.
Google's perspective is a bit different of course. Although I've never seen it spelled out in black and white, Google is peeved that it has to pay Microsoft to provide Exchange ActiveSync support on free Google accounts. It's also peeved that Microsoft hasn't built standards-based (as in, "our standard is more standard than your standard") CalDAV support into the Metro apps, so the sync could take place over a Google-friendly protocol. As a result, on Dec. 14, 2012, as part of its "Winter cleaning," Google announced that effective Jan. 30, "consumers won't be able to set up new devices using Google Sync; however, existing Google Sync connections will continue to function." Bad Microsoft.
Microsoft would counter that Google promised to keep Exchange ActiveSync alive until July 31, and in any event, Google accounts already hooked into ActiveSync shouldn't be effected. As Google said, "Existing users can continue to use Google Sync on their current devices."
Google would counter-counter that it only promised to extend the deadline for Windows Phone devices -- and Microsoft intentionally introduced a bug in the new Metro Calendar app that cut off sync, even though it's still available.
Microsoft would counter-counter-counter that ... well, you get the idea. If you're a Microsoft apologist, no doubt you're 100 percent convinced that Google's at fault. If you're a Google fan, the shoe's on the other foot.
Here's what we know for sure:
- Customers are getting screwed. Whether you believe Microsoft customers got scroogled or Google customers got microshafted, the fact is that many people who would like to use both Metro Calendar and Google Calendar can't, without manually flip-flopping between the two. Both companies are showing an appalling lack of concern for their customers, while trying to score childish points in an imaginary game nobody wins.
- Microsoft doesn't warn you about the change. I've looked and looked at all of the announcements and explanations, and I can't find one single place that says, "If you install this update, you'll lose the ability to sync Metro Calendar with Google Calendar." Nowhere.
- There's no way to back out the update. That's a significant shortcoming with Metro apps in general. Unless Microsoft and Google can bury the hatchet, installing the new version of Mail/People/Calendar will zap your Google Calendar connection, and you can't go back.
- There's no Metro changelog. Want to know which version of Metro Calendar is running on your computer, and what was changed in the latest update? Ha! Even the Windows Store has no record and no hint that this is a new version of Metro Calendar.
- Microsoft promises this won't happen with Windows Phone. In a Jan. 30 post on the Windows Phone blog, Microsoft's Michael Stroh said, "the Windows Phone team is building support into our software for the new sync protocols Google is using for calendar and contacts -- CalDAV and CardDAV. These new protocols, combined with our existing support for the IMAP protocol for email, will enable Windows Phone users to continue to connect to Google services after July 31, 2013." I have no idea why CalDAV and CardDAV support are coming for Windows Phone, but they aren't available in Windows 8 or Windows RT.
This kind of brinksmanship and subterfuge hurts the industry. It's yet another black spot on the reputations of both companies.
This story, "Updated Windows 8 apps not in sync with Google Calendar," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.