Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) seems to think that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) has a serious case of cooties. Mr. Softy has gone so far as to almost buy Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) to keep up with Google, and CEO Steve Ballmer is passionate enough about the rivalry to allegedly throw chairs around his office at the mere mention of Mountain View.
That's why it's so sweet to see the bittersweet couple embrace each other in a loving license agreement this week. Google is licensing the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol, so that Gmail and Google Calendar users can synchronize their Googlish contact information to their cell phones.
The view from Mountain View
On Google's part, it's business as usual. "Last year we released a [sync] tool for Blackberry devices," says Google Mobile's product manager Marcus Foster, and today "we're offering more people easy access to their information on the go". In addition to the Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) Blackberrys, Google can now sync contacts and events to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhones as well as Windows Mobile handsets from makers like HTC and Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) .
Nokia's (NYSE: NOK ) Symbian-based phones, and others that support the SyncML protocol but not the full ActiveSync suite, can only download address books at the moment. The service is in beta, of course, so there are known bugs in every implementation, and the sync may not be nice to your old contact info. But all these caveats aside, Gmail and Google Calendar just increased their mobile reach by a proverbial mile and a half.
The flip side
Microsoft puts a different spin on the same news. The deal is "a clear acknowledgment of the innovation taking place at Microsoft," says licensing VP Horacio Gutierrez. "This agreement is also a great example of Microsoft's openness to generally license our patents under fair and reasonable terms so long as licensees respect Microsoft intellectual property." (Emphasis mine)
Oh dear. That sounds awfully defensive, Mr. Softy -- maybe even bitter. The times, they are a-changin', and perhaps you feel forced to change old habits just to keep up. Just remember that Google wanted access to your enormous installed user base, not necessarily to this particular technology for its own sake.
Get a room already.