Google Sync made possible through patent license with Microsoft
As it turns out, Google did not develop a calendar and contacts synchronization platform all on its own. Rather, it licensed Exchange Server patents from Microsoft, in a deal that company is describing today as an "open" license.
This morning, Google launched its initial beta for a contacts synchronization service that enables individuals to share information for up to five mobile calendars and three e-mail addresses between devices, including iPhone, S60, BlackBerry, Sony Ericsson, and Windows Mobile phones. If that list sounded familiar, it's because their manufacturers are all on the patent licensing agreement list announced by Microsoft last December 18.
Today, Google officially joined that list, though obviously because its beta has already been launched, its agreement with Microsoft must already have extended back at least several months.
Whether due to the evolving state of the market, the increasing demands by consumers for interoperability, the increasing threats from the European Commission, or a combination of these factors, Microsoft has steadily been increasing the availability of its technology, including to competitors. One of the most crucial of the protocols being opened up is Exchange ActiveSync, which Microsoft's own Exchange Server 2007 uses to maintain contact information, e-mail distribution, and point-of-presence between networked PCs and mobile devices.
It's easily the most effective synchronization protocol going, and has become the de facto standard. So Microsoft is under increased pressure to avoid being characterized as non-competitive or unfair with regard to one more standard upon which the world's businesses rely, which is also under its complete control.
Under Microsoft's current policy, the use of APIs to communicate with a system using one of its protocols, does not require a patent license. But serving up the protocol for yourself under your own brand name does require one, and that's what Google Sync does.
It's worth noting that Google's complaints about and against Microsoft appeared to subside somewhat after the dissolution of Google's search advertising deal with Yahoo last November.