Microsoft unveils Mac-to-Exchange sync beta

Microsoft Tuesday launched a public beta for software that ties Mac users more closely to Exchange mail servers, making good on a promise the company announced earlier this month.

A beta of the Entourage to Exchange Web Services (EWS) client software is now open to the public, said Mike Tedesco, a senior product manager for the company's Mac development group. Previously, the beta had been tested by a handful of corporations running Exchange servers and Office 2008 for Mac.

With the beta, Microsoft is moving away from the WebDAV protocol it's used for the last five years to connect Entourage, the e-mail client included in the Mac version of Office, to Exchange, the popular enterprise mail server software. Rather than rely on WebDAV, the beta supports Exchange's native connectivity protocol through an API, putting Entourage on a more equal footing with Microsoft's Windows-based Outlook e-mailer when it comes to synchronizing with Exchange.

"In fact, Exchange Web Services clients, Outlook Web Access, and Active Sync (how your iPhone or Windows Mobile device syncs with Exchange Server over the air) all use the same [technology] for accessing mailbox data," Tedesco said in an entry to the Mac group's blog Tuesday.

Apple licensed Microsoft's ActiveSync technology last March to give iPhone users a way to grab business e-mail from Exchange servers.

The beta also adds some new functionality to Entourage, said Tedesco, including synchronizing tasks, notes and categories in the e-mail program with Exchange.

Users interested in trying the beta of Entourage to Exchange Web Services can apply on the Microsoft Connect site, said Tedesco, but must be running Office 2008 for Mac as well as Exchange Server 2007 with Service Pack 1 with Update Rollup 4, or later.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft used the Macworld Expo & Conference in San Francisco to talk up new software designed to let Mac users of Office collaborate with people running the Windows version of the suite.

The other program it announced then was Document Collaboration Companion, a tool for downloading and uploading Mac documents to enterprise servers running SharePoint, or to the free Office Live Workspace online service.

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