Being addicted to Google and Apple products is not always the easiest fetish to fulfill. Although both companies are close business partners in some respects, their products do not always interoperate to the degree consumers desire.
Take Google OTA Sync for example. It is an exceptional product for iPhone users but unfortunately only implements two of the three hottest aspects of mobile computing: contact and calendar synchronization. Google has quietly left push email out of the equation. Why is it taking so long to realize arguably the most important feature mobile users desire?
In case you are not sure what Google OTA Sync is, Google has this to say about the product, which is currently available in illustrious beta form for iPhone, WinMo and SyncML phones:
For iPhone and Windows Mobile devices, Google Sync allows you to get your Gmail Contacts and Google Calendar events to your phone. Once you set up Sync on your phone, it will automatically begin synchronizing your address book and calendar in the background, over-the-air, so you can attend to other tasks. Sync uses push technology so any changes or additions to your calendar or contacts are reflected on your device in minutes. The connection is always on so you don’t have to manually sync your phone after Sync has been set up. This means that when your colleague changes the time of the TPS report cover sheets meeting, you’ll know about it right away.
Google OTA Sync uses Microsoft’s very own ActiveSync technology, essentially tying your iPhone to a “Microsoft Exchange Server” to perform the over-the-air synchronization of contacts and calendars. Since Exchange was designed as an email server first, it only stands to reason that push Gmail should have been fairly easy to implement.
But here we are, almost four months after the release of Google OTA Sync and over two after the unveiling of the iPhone, and still no push Gmail. Yahoo! Mail offers push capability to the iPhone as does Apple’s MobileMe. Oddly absent from this equation is Google, even though the company does offer the ability to push contacts and calendars to mobile devices.
The larger question is why is push Gmail so important? First, rather than the iPhone having to poll Google’s servers for email periodically, the data is pushed from Google to the device as required. When a new email is delivered to a Gmail inbox, it would then also be pushed to the mobile device. This allows for near instantaneous notification of new mail.
Without push Gmail, email could be sitting on the server for hours before the mobile device is aware new mail has arrived. From a productivity standpoint, push Gmail is extremely beneficial because of the ability to immediately notify users of new mail.
For those of us out here in Japan, push email is pretty standard on mobile phones. The big three, DoCoMo, au and SoftBank all offer push email to their entire mobile phone lineup. The Japanese market expects email to be pushed to mobile devices rather than the devices periodically polling for mail.
Going at this half-assed is surely not going to win Google any cool points. The more Google stalls, the more people will migrate to solutions which do work, such as MobileMe. Even though I still find the service undesirable for anything other than the push email, contacts and calendaring, at least Apple did invest the time to fully integrate all the important aspects of mobile computing.
Hopefully Google has plans to finish the complete integration of a mobile platform capable of properly competing with MobileMe and RIM. If not, as I mentioned above, I fear a certain subset of consumers will begin to look elsewhere to fulfill their mobile computing needs.