(In case you’re wondering, that calendar entry relates to a previous post…)
If you’re one of the vast majority of computer users running some version of Windows you’ve probably at least heard of Microsoft Exchange. If you don’t know exactly what it is, think of it as an online version of Outlook.
Just like Outlook, Exchange can sync your PIM data to a Windows Mobile device, or a BlackBerry, or just about any other PDA or smartphone on the market. But unlike Outlook, Exchange can sync you up over the internet, push email to your device in real time and let you share events and such with users on the same Exchange Server. Oh, and it also connects seamlessly to your copy of Outlook should you need to work offline and/or sync up your handheld in the same way.
Near as I can tell Exchange is pretty much ubiquitous in the corporate world, and therein lies the problem. You Mac zealots out there can raise your pitchforks and light your torches now, because just as you’d expect Microsoft has once again punished us for choosing OS X.
Sure, they’ve recently updated the Mac version of MS Office to run natively on Intel-based Apple machines, and Entourage — the bundled clone of Outlook — does indeed connect to an Exchange Server… But only up to a point. I stopped using Entourage myself ages ago, but both MacWorld and Wikipedia report that the app is unable to synchronize tasks or personal folders with Exchange.
To make matters worse, the Exchange web client (or Outlook Web Access, just to confuse you more) isn’t 100% functional in anything but Internet Explorer on Windows — but really, if you can’t sync half of your crap to Exchange in the first place you won’t care about browser compatibility and will have already moved on to something else.
Enlightened users of Linux proper apparently have full integration with Exchange thanks to Novell Evolution — there’s even a Mac version available for download, although it’s two years old and looks like it’s an unsupported release.
For ninety percent of the computing world Microsoft Exchange is the perfect PIM 2.0 candidate, but because it doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of “everything available on every device” this Mac snob can’t in good conscience give it a passing grade.