Google has confirmed in a blog post that it will perform some “winter cleaning” to its service platform by shutting down a few services on January 30th, with the biggest one being its longstanding Sync service.
Google Sync was Google’s answer to the lack of a unified service for synching PIM and calendar information across multiple platforms and services.The shutdown will begin by disallowing new devices to be registered to the service on January 30th on all platforms, with Google Calendar Sync already refusing new devices from being registered since Friday.
However, all is not lost as the service will be grandfathered in a minimal form for devices already registered on the service regardless of platform after January 30th. However, the biggest change that Google is making concerns access to SyncML, a key service that Windows Phone and Symbian rely heavily on for information and contact management and will greatly be affected by the January service shutdown despite Microsoft Exchange remaining in service for both operating systems.
As the current workaround to use GMail on Windows Phone 7 and 8 requires the use of SyncML and Mail for Exchange to properly populate the Mail app after registering the account credentials the first time, the loss of Mail for Exchange access will undoubtedly make using GMail and related services much more difficult than normal, even with Exchange as a grandfathered backup for already registered devices. The biggest irony is that solely using Exchange on Windows Phone makes using GMail and Google-related services more difficult in general without the presence of dedicated apps, apps that have yet to be made available on Windows Phone despite being available as a platform for nearly 2 years.
While the rest of the media are focused on what effect this will have on iOS, the actual impact is minimal as the extent of Sync for many iPhone users centers on contact backup and not much else, which will be replaced with iCloud once the Sync service shutdown goes into effect.With the extent of Sync usage on iOS being contacts, maintaining the licensing for Sync may have been a larger expense than expected for Google.
This does mean that there will be no way to easily sync contacts with Google afterwards, but the best workaround for that is synching with iTunes by using the iOS device as the middleman to sync contacts to Google, so long as the device is registered to Sync in order for it to be grandfathered ahead of the January 30th cutoff. Clearly, Google is willing to shut down bridge services needed by platforms that it competes directly with in order to push its own solutions, since both Android and Chrome have fully self-contained PIM sync tools that do not require SyncML or Mail for Exchange/Active Sync to function.
Google is choosing to see the maintenance of Sync and Exchange licensing as a burden, all the while keeping other standards such as IMAP and CardDAV for contact sync and email, standards Microsoft can use in Windows Phone 7/8, but can’t integrate as smoothly as SyncML/Exchange for sync with Google, especially CardDAV as its currently unsupported in Windows Phone. With Google even going as far as to dance around the idea of creating Google applications for Windows Phone and sending mixed signals, it only exacerbates the problem that the platform faces with something as necessary as email access and contact management.
To conclude if synching Contacts and Calendar with Google Sync:
On a Desktop
If using an online service other than Google, such as a corporate Exchange server, an online SyncML host; or with a local desktop Windows PC running Outlook, or a Mac using iSync or the newer iCloud, you’re not affected, since you’re not syncing with Google at all.
Manual Google Sync setup via SyncML
Using SyncML to Google, usually after manual set up several years ago. This will stop working after January 30th, when Google’s SyncML servers are switched off.
Manual Mail for Exchange Setup
Using Mail for Exchange, either for older devices, or for newer devices by simply setting up your Gmail as an ‘Exchange’ service and using m.google.com in as the server name. If this is already set up then you can carry on using Google Contacts and Calendar after January 30th, but new device registration won’t be possible. If you wipe or replace your device then you won’t be able to use the same workaround.
Using 3rd-Party Non-Exchange based sync
Using a third party PIM sync service. The main benefit in the past has been the support for multiple calendars. Because no Exchange access is involved at Google’s end, nothing will change after January 30th.