Microsoft explains decision to delay calendar sync in Outlook for Mac

If you don’t have an Exchange account, you’ll find there is no calendar sync available for syncing your calendar events to iCal or iPhone. This feature is coming in an update. Before you ask, no date has been announced. Your choices are to 1) wait before upgrading, 2) upgrade and use Entourage for email, 3)  use iCal for your default calendar until the update or 4) move to Apple Mail.

Andy Ruff, Lead Program Manager for Outlook explained why calendar sync was delayed on the Outlook forum.

—— Forwarded Message
From: Andy Ruff <>
Date: Thu, 4 Nov 2010 09:17:13 -0700
Subject: Re: Outlook sync with iPhone?

I’m the Lead Program Manager for Outlook and the decision to delay calendar sync falls directly under me. I believe it was the right call and I’ll explain why. It wasn’t a decision made lightly. Hopefully the post below gives you some insight into how these kinds of decisions are made.

A bit of history–Entourage’s support for Sync Services was very unreliable. You can look on the forums here and see a long history of calendars gone empty, meetings moved around, and reminders firing sporadically. Some of this is due the fact that Entourage was the first real adopter of Sync Services and it was a technology, at that time (Tiger), that really wasn’t quite as capable as sold. In Leopard, it was significantly revised but Entourage could not take advantage of the change since it’s base OS was Tiger.

When the Entourage Sync Services feature was built, we did all items at one time. No one had done a sync services client like us before and this seemed to make sense, only after several months working on the feature, the team realized it was far more complicated than expected. We plowed through still and shipped it with decent results (Office 2004 11.2). Then came OS changes, new account types in iCal/Address Book, and a slew of other regular issues that we could only react to–each one of these making Sync Services less reliable for you to use. It simply wasn’t a good trajectory for a feature to be on.

As we built this feature in Outlook, we faced some issues. One, Outlook is a v1 product which, for the scale of the product, is a massive undertaking. To help ease parts of this, we did pull in components from Entourage that made sense but in many cases we didn’t think that made sense–the quality wasn’t there and it wasn’t code that would work well with Cocoa. There were a lot of smart people working very hard on Outlook–simply, it’s not easy to build a major new v1 product.

For Sync Services, we were absolutely driven by one rule: Outlook must be extremely high quality. No data loss, no empty folders, no performance lags. We were determined that we will not recreate the headaches in the Entourage Sync Services solution.

We looked back at the Entourage experience and determined things could be done much better if 1) we used our deeper understanding of the Sync Services system to make a better design and 2) we took a phased approach, fully finishing out the sync of one item type before moving onto another. #2 is important for accomplishing #1. By phasing with items, we could flesh through the sync architecture and make sure that our design was really solid before moving onto the next item type.

Knowing that this is the approach we were going to take, we then tried to figure out which item type should come first. From the engineering side, calendar is more complex than contacts and notes is by far the easiest. However, we surveyed a random set of several thousand Entourage users to understand what customers use. The data showed that a large number had tried Sync Services and been burned by it. Of those that had used the feature, a majority synced contacts (the rank was: contacts, calendar, tasks, notes–with very few people using notes).

With those two things in mind, we decided to start with contacts (highest customer win and moderate engineering win). I believe we delivered well on that promise, you’ll see a much more robust, speedy, and reliable sync than Entourage. It also has nicer functionality such as contact image sync, mapping of categories to groups, and no longer this confusion over merge vs. replace during sync.

However, this wasn’t a small task and it was determined that delivering calendar support just wasn’t going to make the project deadline. Our options at that point are:

1) delay all of Office (doesn’t work… the % of overall Office users who use calendar sync is really tiny, while some of you are unhappy, delaying all of Office makes a whole lot more people unhappy),

2) move a bunch of engineers over to the Sync Services project. This doesn’t work because you hit a point when developing software where adding more developers doesn’t make things go faster, it actually goes slower (the Mythical Man Month is what it’s typically called, diminishing returns if you studied economics.

3) ship contacts and continue work on the rest until we are ready to ship them in free updates. This means you have the best engineering focus on the work and you can get things done at a high level of quality.

We went with #3. We’ve tried to be upfront about this with posts on the blogs, sharing openly with all product reviewers, and in our sales training. On launch day, I spent the day training Apple store folks about Outlook and my top concern for Entourage users was those who use calendar sync may want to wait to upgrade until we ship the update.

So it’s your choice–if calendar sync is really important to you, you have the following options:

1) Use another product – up to you, but I’m convinced that Outlook provides the best integrated solution on the Mac

2) Wait for the update to upgrade – don’t buy the product until we upgrade.

3) Go ahead and upgrade and wait on Outlook — you can use Entourage 2008 but Word, PowerPoint, and Excel 2011. It’s a fine combo and I believe the benefits of those products alone is a good upgrade. If you have Outlook there, when the update comes, you’ll get it for free and can switch over.

Your choice. Hopefully you can understand this decision better now.

—— End of Forwarded Message

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46 comments to Microsoft explains decision to delay calendar sync in Outlook for Mac

  • Mark G

    Thanks for the update, this post does certainly clear up the confusion surrounding this issue. It’s too bad that a rough timeframe couldn’t be given like 2011 Q1, but that’s to be expected. However, for people that are interested in the update what will be the method of notifying them?

    Will this be an automated update and if not, maybe an email list should be created that we can sign up for regarding release. I’m also sure there are plenty of people that would be prepared to act as beta testers if that was possible.

    • If you have the Microsoft AutoUpdater set to automatically check you will be notified via MAU when it’s released. I suggest setting to check Daily. We’ll also announce here when it’s released. You can follow us on twitter to get timely announcements and tips.

  • Bruce

    The release mistake you made was to not disclose that this capability was missing. I would have much rather waited for the function to be added than port to Outlook and then find out that I have to manually add matching appointments to my computer and iPhone. Feels like stepping back 5-10 years. Would have been much happier buying the product 3 months later (or whenever you release syncing).

    [Note from administrators: This site is neither owned nor operated by Microsoft.]

  • Mark

    I’m with Bruce. This should have been disclosed by Microsoft and this first release should have been called ‘for Enterprise’. Small business, home edition and Edu edition buyers should be given some forewarning about this missing capability.

    Microsoft can’t honestly label any product ‘… for Mac’ without addressing info syncing across Apple devices by way of MobileMe and iSync. It’s a given that users will / should be able to sync info across their desktop, notebooks, iphones and ipads.

    Very disappointing – not to mention a productivity time-suck having to find this out through trial & error and message board hunting.


  • Dean

    I can’t agree with Mark and Bruce more – please listen Microsoft as honestly after so many similar episodes in the market things do get a little tiresome. I suspect that user figures are distorted through the problems with Entourage pushing people away from it and towards the iCal domain. I am convinced that if MS get this right, and provide a fully integrated sync capability they will steal the major share of the productivity suite market on Mac and attract many over from the VM ware products also (of which I was one and currently wish I had stayed a while longer). Come on MS – although we appreciate the candid and logical nature of Andy Ruff’s explanation, and as a senior manager in the IT product space myself, open communications with the market BEFORE launch are really needed to stop eroding reputation. A lot of early adopter customers are feeling very let down and it was so avoidable. Clearly marketing power overrules product development common sense as I suspect Andy would have liked to tell customers properly beforehand. Try it MS – be open up front and you will win more respect in the Mac space for sure.

  • wase4711

    I also STRONGLY agree; Microsoft should have been upfront in announcing these features were not ready for V1, and then it would be up to us as consumers, to decide to buy it or wait until that MANDATORY feature was included..Its things like this that have give Microsoft such a horrible reputation in the marketplace..

  • Linda

    I appreciate Microsoft’s Office for Mac work – glad there’s a 2011 version.
    However, I too need to sync the calendar with my iPhone. I have Office 2011 but fortunately checked around before installing it, so I knew about the sync issue.

    This would not be urgent (for me, anyway) except that I installed the Entourage 12.2.7 upgrade recently, experienced crashes/etc., and backed off of it in a way that apparently left some broken links. After hours of extra work removing .plist files, updating a previous database file manually, etc. it’s limping along and the utility reports it’s ok, though I can no longer repair my database reliably and there are emails (with links) that hang Entourage when I try to delete them.

    I sincerely hope Microsoft releases either a more stable 12.2.7+ upgrade or an Office 2011/Outlook calendar sync – soon. The combination of the two issues is pretty rough.

  • Jeff

    Outlook is next to useless for me without the ability to sync calendar and contacts to Google. ( I then sync my Google calendar and contacts to my Android smartphone. Not everybody who owns a Mac has an iPhone.) I had hoped to get rid of Parallels on my Macs, but will keep running Office 2010 for Windows in Parallels until this issue is resolved. To me there is no value to having the other Office applications running on the Mac side and still have to do Outlook in Windows.

  • I love Outlook ever since it came out. I just changed to a Mac and was excited to hear Outlook & Office was coming out for the Mac. I actually think Outlook & Office for the Mac is great EXCEPT that we can’t sync with our iPhones. I know the release is coming, but it actually would be nice to know an estimate how far off it is. REASON: 1) Should I look for another solution (i.e., using iCal & Adress Book) in the meantime if it’s a year out 2) If it’s in a month or two, then I can hold off.

    I really wish Microsoft would tell us a date on when the release is coming. I use my Contacts and Calendars religiously on a daily basis.

    I do understand Andy’s email and their strategy as we deal with our developer engineers on a daily basis. If you put yourself in the shoes of Microsoft or any other major company, I don’t think anyone would market “You can buy our new product, but it’s half baked on sync and limited.” That would kill their sales and it’s all about revenue. Not just with Microsoft, but any other major company. They would shoot themselves in the foot.

    I’m not condoning it, however, just saying I do understand to a certain extent. I just hope the engineers are really working on the sync fix as they promised every day because we really need to sync w/ our iPhones. Or just give us a target date..PLEASE!!! =)


  • Jeff

    What a bunch of arrogant nonsense! He sounds like a Teaching Assistant lecturing a class of people more experience than he is. MS just doesn’t get it.

    He says we should wait to upgrade? Would have been nice to know before www all potted everything over and committed ourselves to using the product. This was a decision made to deceive customers so the would buy licenses. What a robbery.

    This guy clearly has never worked outside the insulation of a a software company. He’s as bad as the engineers at apple – the word “integration” is not in their vocabulary.

  • KG

    Very very very annoying…..I’ve been looking forward for the new office 2011 and bought straight away today spending good £200+ of my hard earned money to then realise that i cannot sync my iphone with my calender!!!!

    I dont go around and buy a car with 3 wheels and then get told oh by the way – just hold the one side with the missing wheel until we can get you a spare wheel !!!!!!!

    Microsoft – this is very very poor service standards – you either release a product DONE or at least tell people before they buy that you cant sync calender !!!!!!!!!!

    Not happy customer..

  • Linda

    Follow-up to my 11/18 email – my Entourage database became corrupted enough to need rebuilding and I couldn’t rebuild it – the db utility took 40+ minutes several times, then died. Microsoft support said my only option was to re-install Office 2008.
    Given that, I decided to install Office 2011 but use iCal for calendar & tasks. I was able to run Entourage long enough to archive email (though it crashed when I tried a full archive). My calendar and tasks were already sync’d with iCal. I was able to save contacts in a .csv file.
    Some of the transferred email dates are wrong (2018) in Outlook 2011 but it seems to be working ok. Overall I really like the program. I like the UI, the added functionality, and the fact that I no longer need to back up the database manually.
    I might not move calendar & task data to Outlook (when the update’s available) – once I get it all set up in iCal categories/calendars it’ll probably be good enough for my work.
    For me this is a functional solution that doesn’t require waiting for calendar-ical sync capability.

  • Tim

    I’m sorry but I am not really sympathetic to most of the people complaining on this board.

    While I, too, look forward to a fully functioning Office 2011, I think anyone who thinks that a v1.0 product is going to roll out of the box and work trouble free is just fooling themselves.

    As a personal consumer, I learned early on to wait at least three months after a major upgrade is released before I plunked my money down for it. When I worked in a corporate environment our very smart tech guys would wait three to six months after release just to be sure things had settled down enough. They knew that a little patience would save them a jillion headaches.

    Also, an aside, but my own anecdotal experience backs up Microsoft’s claim that Entourage users who sync their calendars are a tiny subset in the galaxy of Office for Mac users. I know a lot of people who use various versions of Office for Mac but I know of only one who uses Entourage for anything. I am that one.

    And, honestly, Entourage and its lame syncing have been a pain from the very start. If Microsoft is working on a real, viable solution, I encourage them to take the time it needs to get it right.

  • Ari

    Microsoft has the resources (financial & people) to:
    – Develop a fully functional OSX based product from the get-go
    – Provide great support to have them installed

    But it does not want to.

    Because of Windows strategy to cater to the corporate IT. Why should it provide its key competitive advantage to OSX (or Linux), the mighty MS-Office? MS would loose more revenue/profit in Windows OS sales than it gains in selling few copies of MAC/Linux Office.

    Plain and simple.

  • Ed

    Thanks for the info and honesty. It is all about the money: “… the % of overall Office users who use calendar sync is really tiny”.

    Damn, I bought Office for Mac 2011 Business last week. I didn’t realize that Outlook only syncs contacts with my iPhone via iTunes. Very disappointed and angry with myself for not checking the features more thoroughly.

    The more I use Macs (hard- & software), the more I like. Everything just works so well compared to the MS environment. I know there is a smaller market, but think that Steve Jobs and the Apple people make the world a better place and it will pay off in the long-term.

  • Tony

    Not well publicized, the main reason for buying office 2011 was for the synchronization of Outlook with our mobile phones – I expected it to work the same as 2010 I HOPE THIS UPDATE IS NOT LONG COMMING, hopefully within my lifetime.

  • Hope so too, it is a shame that we are going backwards.

  • James

    Two updates later and STILL no calendar sync…..Outlook is now nothing more then a bloated mail client…pretty lame.

  • KP

    I join the ranks of the frustrated consumer who unwittingly purchased a product that I presumed would be fully functional 3 months after the initial launch but isn’t!!! I guess that I should have learned my lesson previously and checked to see if sync was functional for contacts, tasks, and calendar items before I installed it yesterday…..

  • Pd

    Where are the lawyers when you need them. I don’t recall that Microsoft disclosed on it’s box or during installation that we delivering a product that was missing features that could reasonably expected. Paid full price and expected to get a full product that would do at least what Entourage does

    • CBrash

      PD – my thoughts exactly. I am so angry and feel completely ripped off. I’m a small business and wasting money on software that inhibits my ability to work is a complete waste. I’m in PR and telling everyone who will listen about what a crock MS has been in this instance. God I wish we could all go legal!!

  • Dave

    The question is will we ever be able to sync Outlook 2010 for Mac with Google Apps like we can with Outlook for Windows. We really like Outlook as a central application for Mail, Calendars and Contacts but choose to use Google Apps for the Mail server. Currently this configuration doesn’t work. I don’t know where the problem is situated, (Google or Microsoft), but surly this is a feature that is highly sought after.


    • Outlook for Win has support for CalDav where Outlook for Mac does not.

      At this time, Outlook for Mac does not sync with web-based calendars such as Windows Live Calendar or Google Calendar. When sync to iCal is enabled, you could then use iCal to sync to Google calendars.

  • Allen Rose

    I am using a MiFi from VZW and have seen my data usage jump with the use of Outlook 2010. I have noticed that all of my Calendar items are downloaded from my Exchange Server every few minutes even though no changes have been made. This could be the source of my data leak which will cause me to stop using Outlook to avoid overage charges.

    Can anyone tell me how to stop this bug?

  • Do you know if there is any update on when we are likely to see this update? This lack of integration is seriously affecting the way we work and is hugely frustrating. Thanks!

    • The answer is the same as before…sometime in the first half of this year.

      • CBrash

        I’m going to try this type of response in my business and see how I get on….

        In the meantime, my problems would be greatly improved if iCal worked better with outlook. I am forced to use outlook for meeting requests as ICal does not integrate with my PC clients (the majority of australian clients unfortunately). If Apple can get this right I’ll never buy another microsoft product again!!!

  • Kevin

    What a disappointment Outlook 2011 for Mac is. It’s like Microsoft took Outlook 95, removed the cool features and put some Mac looking icons on the toolbar. This is a piece of junk! It doesn’t have any of the filtering or power user features. Microsoft should be ashamed, literally, hang your heads. You know better. 2011, please. How does Microsoft plan on winning over Mac users when it releases terrible Mac versions. Nice way to alienate users Microsoft! If I had to develop a strategy for Microsoft I would make the Mac stuff ROCK so that Mac users still desired Microsoft products. I used to be the most ardent Microsoft supporter. i used everything Microsoft I could, But, now since I have to use Mac for work, I’m basically transitioning everything I can away from Microsoft. It just blows on the Mac’s. Get with the times Microsoft, or don’t, and watch as Google and Apple erase you.

    The real reason Outlook can’t sync calendars other than Exchange.

    EXCHANGE is the most profitable product Microsoft has. If the allow other sync platforms they will loose the precious spendy corporate demographic. Wake up people! Microsoft will never EVER update Outlook to sync with a competing platform that puts them out of business. EVER. They are holding out for Google to license their precious exchange server. Then they will be making revenue from every singe gmail user.

  • Paul

    I have been using Outlook for Win for the last 15 years with satisfaction. When switching to Mac I was hoping to continue using Outlook in a Mac environment. Two key features prevent me from doing so – syncing with iPhone and mail delivery notification. Both key features are critical for me. I hope the mail delivery notification will also be included in the update.

  • jonathan

    Mine are not the comments of a mac disciple evangelising for SJ. I’ve used PCs (and only PCs) for 20+ years. But Outlook 2011 is a disgrace.
    Migrating from a PC running XP and Office 2003, one has an absolute right to expect certain things from something calling itself Office 2011. Outlook has been around for many years, MS have many years of developing software and today, you tend to only get buggy, ill-conceived software from amateurs writing apps for phones.
    No sync to Iphone? What do you mean you recognise that some people don’t use Exchange? That’s like saying your new version of Excel doesn’t do formulas and whilst you recognise some people need to use them, you’ll have an update sometime in the next 6 months.
    Add to that a clunky, buggy, look-a-like (Ical) piece of software – (delete some imported email folders and calendar disappears, invite someone to a meeting and it says you need to set up an email account when 2 are already created) – and you realise that MS is on a slippery slope here. A cynical approach to Apple resulting in a 2nd rate team producing 2nd rate software. The anger here and above is the feeling of being deceived. Yes, i’ve paid £200 for the software and yes I’ve spent hours and hours trying to find ways around. But this is like going out and buying a new mac – which i’ve just done – and finding the screen is unreliable. it’s not a luxury to sync or perform basic functions competently. It’s an absolute necessity and it is entirely disingenuous of the MS team leader to try and pretend that his company has shown anything other than contempt and disdain for customers who have dared purchase a mac. As a business owner, this behaviour has certainly helped me decide my future IT strategy.

  • I am an 100% user. i bought a Mac and MS Office with assurance the bugs have been figured out. To not sync is pathetic. If someone from MS reads this, please please please publish your best guess on when you will fix this!! for what its worth, I would be out of work if treated my clients this way!!!

  • Tom

    I know this sounds like a broken record, but I spent alot of time looking for this non-solution to the problem, i.e. wait until the upgrade comes in. It could have been included somewhere else on the Microsoft site. Also, I’m a total computer idiot, but if my iPhone calendar can syncronize with Outlook 2003, it seems to me that it can’t be that difficult to put the same functionality in Outlook for Mac 2011. I guess I’ll just use the ical.

  • Eugene

    Andy Ruff’s reply shows there is some missing know-how about how users approach the market in MS and about users problems with MS Office.
    All of the guys I know were longing for Office 2011 just for one reason: Word 2008 was simply not working and crashing at unacceptable rates.
    Microsoft pointed marketing of 2011 on a much better version of Word and this was enough to trigger sales on day one and early adoption.
    Users assumed other applications would be as high-quality as Word 2011 and nothign was disclosed to counter that assumption.
    My Apple official dealer did not have any information on issues with Outlook.
    Else, the issue with Outlook could have been avoided by simply waiting for release of the Pro version (i would not have installed home & student).
    I paid a substantial price for a complete version of Office and expected Outlook to perform adequately and replace all of the functions of Entourage.
    This has only happened for the mail part. Not for the other PIM functions which seem still in beta.
    On day two the sync services for Outlook contacts erased all the contacts in my IPhone.
    I turned them off and have not used them ever since.
    Of course, no calendar sync.
    And, moreover, I cannot turn back to Entourage since there is no export to Entourage format.
    I am really disappointed.

  • JoAnn Hackos

    It’s now May. Calendar on the Mac still does not synch. And we use Exchange Server. Any news yet? The last post was the end of March. This is extremely annoying — results in missed appointments since I only travel with the Mac and iPhone but the rest of the company is on PCs.

  • CBrash

    There are only 15 days to go until the end of the first half of this year…. any word… any customer communication…. any way people who purchased the useless Outlook 2011 can finally use it with iphone, ipad??? Apple’s upgrades to mail, cloud etc will be the final step to my never using microsoft again. I was loyal for 20+ years, now I can’t say enough bad things about them.