A Brief History of Mail Services

October 20th, 2010  |  Published in mac and iphone  |  2 Comments

1999: I need a mail server that syncs up between my home and office computers so I don’t have to continually re-read mail I saw at one or the other. I set up the UWash IMAP server on my home server and I’m good.

2000: Still using IMAP, but I change email clients a few times along the way as more and more Linux clients add support for IMAP. That doesn’t matter, because even if IMAP behave a little differently from server to server, and even if some of the client implementations aren’t awesome, they all work together.

2004: What? Still IMAP. I’ve switched to Macs by now, but I’ve been able to use Entourage, Mail.app, mutt, probably a few things I’ve forgotten. It’s not an issue because IMAP just works with all of them.

2009: The new employer has an Exchange server. My choices are: Entourage, Outlook or the Outlook Web edition. Nobody turned on IMAP (at least not for someone with my pull), so I’m out of luck with any mail client I’ve used prior. I’d like to use Snow Leopard’s Mail app, which touted support for Exchange servers, but it only works with Exchange Server 2007. If you want to use Entourage with ES, you need the Pro edition of MS Office. Already own Home edition? You can’t upgrade for the difference between the two packages: You have to buy the whole thing again. Well played, Microsoft. Well played, indeed. (I do not, by the way, submit to this particular bit of extortion.)

2010: Say … still using IMAP for everything but work mail, and I notice that Microsoft is about to release Office for Mac 2011. This time, instead of crummy Entourage it has Outlook. Only $199? Well … if it’ll let me hook up to that Exchange Server 2003 install at work, I’ll consider it. What’s that, Microsoft? Outlook 2011 will only support Exchange Server 2007? Pity.

Fortunately for me, there’s Davmail. What’s Davmail? Just a desktop proxy that can talk to Exchange Server 2003 and in turn allow you to use any old mail client with it because, as it turns out, Davmail’s developers have had the same experience with IMAP I did: It just works with just about everything.

Thanks for nothing, Microsoft.

And thanks for nothing, Apple, for that matter: My iPhone running iOS 4 is able to talk to Exchange Server 2003 to the point I can even acknowledge, cancel or modify calendar events. Snow Leopard? Exchange Server 2007 or nothing.


  1. David says:

    October 26th, 2010 at 3:39 pm (#)

    Why doesn’t everybody understand one very obvious thing? All the iPhones, Blackberrys, Win Mobile phones, etc. will connect to just any Exchange server because they use Active Sync to do so. Active Sync is a standard protocol for mobile devices to connect to Exchange servers.

    Desktop apps were using RPC over HTTP (or EWS) to connect to Exchange 2003 but those days are gone. Anything newer than Exchange 2003 uses a different communication protocol… This is not a decision Apple made. This is one by Microsoft. I don’t say I’m happy, we are not very likely to upgrade our SBS2003 just because my Mac is unable to take advantage of the new Office for Mac 2011…

  2. David Edwards says:

    November 29th, 2010 at 12:12 am (#)

    Hey Mike,

    I saw on another web site you left a message about the Emacs-like key bindings supported for the wireless keyboard/iPad combination. Thanks for the tip.

    Question: I can’t get control-p, control-n or control-d to work. Have I got a setting wrong somewhere?



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