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6/17/2009
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Google Apps Outlook Plugin Kills Windows Desktop Search

Microsoft cries foul as Google's software links Microsoft's messaging client to the Google cloud, helping committed Outlook fans feel more at home on Google's turf.

As part of its campaign to convince corporate customers to use Google Apps, Google about a week ago unveiled a software bridge called Google App Sync for Microsoft Outlook to help Outlook users cross the platform chasm.

The software lets you use Microsoft Outlook to connect to Google Apps Premiere or Education Editions, effectively linking Microsoft's messaging client to the Google cloud. It's a move to make committed Outlook fans feel more at home on Google's turf.

Unfortunately, Google App Sync has a side effect: It kills the connection between Windows Desktop Search and Outlook.

Microsoft is, understandably not pleased by what it characterizes as a "serious bug/flaw."

"The installation of the Google Apps Sync plug-in disables Outlook's ability to search any and all of your Outlook data," Outlook product manager Dev Balasubramanian said in a blog post Wednesday. "When a Google Apps user installs the sync plug-in for Outlook, the plug-in modifies a registry key which disables Windows Desktop Search from indexing and providing search functionality for all Outlook data, not just the Outlook data being synchronized from Gmail. Because Outlook search relies upon the indexing performed by Windows Desktop Search, Outlook search functions are broken as a result."

Obsessive Google watchers might view this as payback for Windows Vista, which at one time interfered with Google Desktop Search. Two years ago, Google complained to the Department of Justice that Vista's desktop search was anti-competitive because it was difficult to disable and slowed Google Desktop Search by operating simultaneously in the background. Microsoft subsequently made changes in Vista to address Google's complaints.

How times have changed. Now it's Google that's facing Justice Department scrutiny.

Google says it's working to correct the issue. "The default Outlook search has always worked, and we're working with Microsoft to fix the Windows Desktop search issue," a Google spokesperson said via e-mail. "Users who want to continue to use Desktop search with Outlook can just uninstall Apps Sync."

Balasubramanian, however, insists that uninstalling Google Apps Sync for Outlook may not remedy the situation. He said that "the only remedy is to change the registry key that was modified by the plug-in."

In a blog post on Tuesday, Chris Vander Mey, senior product manager for Google Apps, noted that while Google had made sure Outlook plug-ins for Salesforce.com and WebEx continue to work, others like Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, Acrobat PDF Maker Toolbar, and Outlook Change Notifier don't at the moment. PGP.com's encryption plug-in for Outlook also doesn't work properly with Google Apps Sync.


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