Google has chosen to extend their support of Exchange ActiveSync for Windows Phone 8 until July 31, 2013. This will give Microsoft time to come up with support for the CardDAV and CalDAV protocols now used by Google’s services. While the extension will only apply to the mobile device platform and not to the larger Windows 8 ecosystem, it still works as a functional compromise to keep users connected to their accounts.
The most recent conflict between Google and Microsoft has centered in this sort of service availability. Google decided to restrict EAS connections to paying customers after January 30, 2013. This left the vast majority of their free users at something of a disadvantage, especially those who use the clients provided by Microsoft with Windows Phone 8. Anybody using that platform would essentially be cut off from their email and various other services.
Because the Windows Phone apps rely on Google Sync, which uses EAS, this change would have been troublesome. It is possible to switch over to IMAP for access to Gmail, though that has its own problems, but even that only covers the email side of things. Calendars, contact lists, and more are all completely inaccessible without the Sync support that these devices rely on. Fortunately an agreement proved possible.
Basically, this appears to have been an attempt by Google to prevent or delay the release of Windows Phone 8. They have reportedly been talking about this change for some time now, but didn’t release any date for the change until right before the first WP8 devices were to be made available. Giving less than 60 days to add support for the new protocols ensured that there was little chance of the changes being made in time, which meant that anybody trying out the new Android competitor would be likely to have a lot of trouble.
Windows 8 and Windows RT users are affected in exactly the same way, but they are not covered in the agreement. This shouldn’t affect anybody on a desktop too much since there are any number of applications that will still function perfectly as well as the obvious web clients, but Windows RT device owners might run into problems. So far there has been no word that CardDAV or CalDAV support is being readied for these devices, given that smartphones are being prioritized, which means that new users will have no access to their Google Calendar and Contacts. IMAP email support remains available, of course.
The obvious solution is to switch over to Outlook.com for their analogous services, but there are not completely equivalent. The Contacts support needs some work yet and the Calendar needs an update. The Modern UI still hasn’t been added to the Calendar side of Outlook.com, making it a jarring transition in many cases. Overall it might still be a decent way to go, but that doesn’t change how inconvenient Google has made life for their users with these changes.