As the Windows Phone 7 US release date creeps closer (and UK fans begin to get their hands on the new devices), more info is coming to light regarding how Windows Phone 7 will sync with Outlook. Windows Phone 7 is a radical shift from the business-oriented Windows Mobile 6.5, and has clearly adopted a more consumer-friendly style (courtesy of Zune). While the user-interface enhancements are sure to please most users, Microsoft’s core mobile competency has always been tight integration with its Office suite, including Microsoft Outlook.
Windows Phone 7 includes support for Exchange Active Sync, allowing large companies with an Exchange server to easily adopt the new platform. However, what options exist for standalone Outlook users who do not have access to an Exchange server?
In the past, Microsoft has allowed its Windows Mobile devices to sync direct with the PC over a USB cable using Windows Mobile Device Center. In a puzzling move, Microsoft has announced that standalone Outlook users must use the Microsoft Office Outlook Hotmail Connector to sync their contacts and calendar with Windows Live Hotmail. Hotmail offers Exchange Active Sync support to push contacts, calendar and email to Windows Phone 7. While this solution may work for some, there will be many passionate Outlook users who do not want their data “in the cloud” because of security and privacy concerns.
Why didn’t Microsoft update Windows Mobile Device Center to include support for Windows Phone 7? It’s hard to believe that Microsoft made this decision on purpose, especially since their largest competitor – the Apple iPhone – provides direct Outlook sync through iTunes.
Reports have been coming in (see Sascha Segan’s PCMag review and Walt Mossberg’s WSJ piece) that Windows Phone 7 does sync with Google/Gmail, as Google also provides contacts and calendar sync through Exchange ActiveSync. This means that CompanionLink will tentatively support Windows Phone 7 from day 1 with our Google sync solutions, extending support for WP7 sync to users of ACT!, Lotus Notes, Palm Desktop, GroupWise and other PC software. Many users are already expressing their frustration at the lack of a direct Outlook to Windows Phone 7 sync solution, and CompanionLink will continue to evaluate alternate sync methods as more information becomes available.