Burton Group's Bill Pray has an interesting, first-hand observation on Google's Tuesday announcement of "Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook":

[H]aving been part of a team that built a connector for Outlook, it is not as simple as it sounds. Google's approach may doom the effort. ...

As Microsoft alters Outlook in releases, service packs, and patches, it becomes very difficult to maintain this kind of integration. A lot of the heavy lifting happens client side in Outlook, so even small tweaks can create engineering nightmares for an integration. Microsoft definitely isn't incented to be helpful to these kinds of integrations like they are with partner application integrations to Outlook. The result is that customers trying to use the connectors become frustrated with frequent "breaks" and loss of functionality as their vendor tries to catch up to the latest changes in the Outlook client. ...

Google seems to be approaching it like IBM and Novell have... building a connector to make Gmail work in Outlook. It will be interesting to see if they can really make it successful.  As Guy [Creese, also of Burton Group] pointed out, the initial release will be missing features -- such as task management, rules, and delegation. This makes it questionable as to whether or not the connector can really permit enterprises to replace their Exchange servers on the backend. Having experienced it first hand, I believe users will be frustrated by the missing functionality.
Few noticed a technote IBM published recently announcing the end of Domino Access for MS-Outlook.  I even let the funeral pass without comment at the time, despite being the marketing manager who brought DAMO into the world (as "Bluejay") ten years ago.

DAMO was, as Bill Pray correctly observes, a huge challenge.  We initially did exactly as he states (you'll need to read the full entry, I didn't quote it all) -- start by trying to make Outlook work like Notes.  When we set out to rebuild DAMO in Domino 7, we instead shifted the development mindset to have DAMO work like an Outlook user would expect.  Unfortunately, there were always too many edge conditions -- things that just work a bit differently in the Outlook world than in the Notes/Domino world.  This wasn't even a matter of whether/if Microsoft published the right APIs or specs -- Exchange and Domino are not 100% homogenous identical back-ends, and, especially in areas like calendar workflow, just couldn't line up.

The reasons we built DAMO in the first place were to go after the market that Google now aspires to sell to.  Drop in replacement for Exchange, yada yada, let users keep Outlook.  Since that time ten years ago, we've dramatically improved the Notes user interface, delivered a great web user interface, and opened up Domino to a whole range of mobile clients where the desktop client doesn't even matter.  I don't doubt that there is a market here -- and it is a market that almost every non-Exchange e-mail vendor in the market has gone after at some point.  Outlook, or Outlook users, don't want to go there, en masse.  Good luck to Google, chasing old ground.  I would rather we invest in a great client story for the Notes/Domino portfolio, and skate where the puck is going.

Link: Burton Collaboration and Content Blog: Google's Approach May Doom the Effort >

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