My jaw dropped.
Right on this page Apple — Mac OS X Leopard — Snow Leopard about midway down Apple says:
Microsoft Exchange Support
Snow Leopard includes out-of-the-box support for Microsoft Exchange 2007 built into Mail, Address Book, and iCal. Mac OS X uses the Exchange Web Services protocol to provide access to Exchange Server 2007. Because Exchange is supported on your Mac and iPhone, you’ll be able to use them anywhere with full access to your email, contacts, and calendar.
I don’t have to ask myself if Apple can pull this off. Of course they can! But with a “free” Exchange solution “out-of-the-box” what does this mean for Microsoft Entourage?
Entourage is falling short
Exchange support for the Macintosh platform has never had parity with Windows. Outlook 98 and Outlook 2001, the only true Outlook clients for Macintosh, were basic versions of their Windows counterparts. Entourage, now in its third version of Exchange support, still lacks many features that customers have been requesting for years.
Switchers, who are adopting the Mac as their primary computer platform after leaving a long-time relationship with Windows, expect something better than what they left behind, especially when they learn Microsoft makes Office for Mac and Windows.
For many folks who have only known the one platform, Office is practically synonymous with Windows. Right or wrong, they expect their experience on the Mac to be similar to what they had on Windows.
Many switchers have expressed their disappointment with Office 2008 for Mac because it simply doesn’t do everything Office 2007 and earlier could do on Windows. And when they begin exploring Entourage 2008 they are befuddled to learn that it doesn’t support sending Tasks and Notes through Exchange, doesn’t support server side rules or doesn’t support PST files.
Bring it on!
Competition is good. The fact that Apple is joining the market in Exchange support means that Mac users will not only have a choice of product but the products themselves will have to get better to stay marketable.
Apple has on its side an impeccable flair for design and products that “just work” plus Address Book and iCal data can sync with multiple services. But can Apple do in one new version of Address Book, iCal and Mail what Microsoft hasn’t accomplished in three versions of Entourage?
Microsoft has experience on its side, not to mention all the Exchange Server resources and development in-house. It also has stronger AppleScript support and powerful search capabilities, which are needed by power users. Can it continue to offer more Exchange support than Apple to keep it a product in demand?
I look at this two ways:
What should Microsoft be doing to improve Entourage?
While full Outlook parity would be nice I don’t think it’s necessary for Entourage to be considered the preferred Exchange client. But the following are musts.
- Tasks and Notes must work with Exchange
Mail, calendaring and contacts already work and Exchange users are screaming for these last items. Not only should Microsoft include this support with Exchange, they should include it for non-Exchange (POP and IMAP) accounts as well so that home and small business users can send and receive tasks with each other.
- Entourage must support PST files
While PST files aren’t technically an Exchange feature they are an Outlook feature that has no equivalent on the Mac. At minimum, Entourage should be able to import and export the PST file format that is compatible with all recent versions of Outlook. Ideally, it would be able to just use the PST file format.
- Sync statuses and metadata with Outlook
Exchange support needs to consider those who work on multiple computers either at work or between work and home. Read/Forward status arrows, categories and other metadata must sync seamlessly between Entourage and Outlook.
- Calendar scheduling should be equal to Outlook
The Calendar is a core component of Exchange and Entourage should be able to take full advantage of its capabilities such as direct booking of resources, finding first available meeting times and supporting multiple calendars at once. Microsoft should take Apple’s lead and provided an overlay view a la iCal.
- Entourage needs a non-syncing Work Online mode and an offline mode that syncs the Global Address List
While on the company network Entourage must offer the ability to not sync and allow immediate viewing of messages on the server. While traveling, users should be able to sync not only their accounts but also the company GAL.
What should Apple do to make Address Book, iCal and Mail the better Exchange clients?
Apple has both the convenience and the inconvenience of starting with clean code. Mail (assuming Mail will be Snow Leopard’s Exchange client) is built in XCode but must go through the retrofitting process that Entourage did back in 2003.
- Support Kerberos authentication
Network applications in the Enterprise should be integrated with network services such as Kerberos for single sign-on authentication. Not only does Entourage 2008 support Kerberos but Microsoft Messenger does as well. Integrating iChat with Office Communications Server would be a bonus.
- Adopt a three-column view for Mail
Although this isn’t an Exchange feature, it’s valuable for the Enterprise road warrior. The three column format is an alternative to the preview on bottom that works well for laptop users with smaller but wide screens who need to maximize their screen real estate. Interestingly the Mobile Me mail view looks very much like Entourage.
- Include Public folder support
I don’t see this happening. Public folders is on the Exchange Server 2007 list of de-emphasized features but corporate demand may keep this feature around longer than Microsoft intends.
- Include an automatic archive feature
Apple could surpass Entourage in this area if it would automate moving server-side messages into a local archive that can be readily accessed and modified like PST files.
- Market strongly to the education market
Entourage 2004 Student & Teacher users were surprised that when they upgraded to Entourage 2008 Home & Student that Exchange support was no longer included. The $129.00 price for a new version of Mac OS X is still less than the $149.00 cost of Office without Exchange support.
The recent decision by Apple to license ActiveSync from Microsoft has probably contributed to their entering the Exchange support arena, which can only mean the two companies are probably already positioning their products for different markets. I suspect Apple will gain the education market while leaving Microsoft to handle the enterprise.
The conspicuous statement on Apple’s website that Snow Leopard support will be using the Exchange Web Services protocol means that they are onboard with Microsoft’s plans to not use MAPI nor WebDAV. Entourage 2008, however, relies on both Exchange Web Services and WebDAV, which means support for connecting to Exchange Server 2000 and 2003 is a potential but not a guarantee.