Thursday, March 2, 2023

Outlook Syncing With Microsoft Cloud

Beatrix Willius:

According to the German computer magazine Heise Outlook is now using “Microsoft Synch Technology” without asking the user.

When you create a new account, there’s a checkbox to opt out, but the Heise article implies that existing accounts are automatically opted in and you have to delete and recreate them to opt out:

A reader pointed out to us that the previously established direct retrieval of an IMAP account with him now also takes detours via Azure. [Apple translation]

This seems really bad to do without consent, but perhaps the reader is mistaken or it’s a bad translation.

Yesterday, when I tried adding a Gmail account, the Sync with Microsoft Cloud option was present but pre-checked.

But today, when I did the same thing, the wizard did not offer me the option. It briefly showed some text saying that “for a better experience” it was going to sync with Microsoft, but before I could take a screenshot it switched to the next page. The configured Gmail account did not show any indication that Microsoft sync was in use.

I then tried adding an IMAP account, and the Sync with Microsoft Cloud option was not presented at all. I don’t understand why Outlook seems to be behaving inconsistently.


Syncing your account to the Microsoft Cloud means that a copy of your email, calendar, and contacts will be synchronized between your email provider and Microsoft data centers. Having your mailbox data in the Microsoft Cloud lets you use the new features of the Outlook client (Outlook for iOS, Outlook for Android,, or Outlook for Mac) with your non-Microsoft account, just like with your Microsoft accounts.


The ability to sync to the Microsoft Cloud is available to new Outlook for Mac users who are on build 16.15.18070902 and higher and have an active Microsoft 365 subscription.

Yeah, I don’t want that.


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And the credit for this invented practice of storing your access credentials on other peoples' servers must surely go to one Apple Inc., of Cupertino, Calif., for whose manufactured mobile devices the concept of a persistent push notification connection to a single Apple-owned service for (supposedly) optimising battery usage while receiving updates from installed apps would otherwise (supposedly) not be possible. Microsoft are just making hay on desktop now too while the going's good and nobody's keen on reading the legalese. But the only feature that I can think of that actually requires this is instant push notifications for newly-arrived mail, and for that there are more private options, like the one deployed by iCloud and, when it existed, Mac OS Server, where Apple Mail just receives the push that was sent by the server to check in, rather than having that function intermediated by a third party, using a proprietary extension in the IMAP/CALDAV/CARDDAV protocols and client APNS certificates that can push to Apple's apps with a special payload containing the account of the user. (You can still do it, if you want. You might need a purchase record for Server on your account; I haven't tested it. Less sketchy aproaches are to just use a third-party ActiveSync implementation, which is less efficient but doesn't require Apple's involvement, or using something like Prowl to hand-craft a solution, albeit with far less attractive UX.)

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