"I think of this as a love story," began Chris Vander Mey, Senior Product Manager at Google, as he announced Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, a plug-in that syncs Outlook with Apps, much like Outlook syncs with Exchange.

But love? Not so much. Google, intent on building its enterprise channel, has recognized that many Outlook users - particularly enterprise users - aren't ready to make the leap to the cloud and to Google Apps. But maybe, just maybe, Google Apps Sync is what it will take to woo them.

According to a press release, Google Apps Sync works on Outlook 2003 and 2007 and will synchronize email, calendar and contacts data with Google Apps. "It provides access to Global Address List data and enables users to schedule meetings by looking up when attendees are free or busy. It also includes a simple, two-click migration utility which enables users to easily copy their data from a previous Outlook data source, such as Microsoft Exchange servers.

Not Quite Gears

"Although we use the same protocol as gears, we don't use gears per se," explained Vander Mey. "It's all saved in outlook PST files. From a technical level [there] is a MAPI provider; when you connect to Exchange we have built our own MAPI provider - we just change what's going out on the wire - as opposed to licensing from Microsoft."

Key Features:

E-mail, calendar and contact sync
Synchronize all Outlook fields in both directions, keeping them up-to-date; Uses a Google native e-mail protocol.

Free/Busy and Global Address look up
The Global Address List feature lets you search for and access e-mail addresses of users and resources in your domain.

Simple, user-driven data migration
Letting users move data to Google instead of having to wait for IT admins.

Google Apps Sync will be launched this afternoon.

You'll need Outlook 2003 SP3 or 2007 SP2 (or SP1 with a hotfix), running on Windows XP SP2 (with selected hotfixes) or Vista SP1 (with a hotfix).

If you want to see how Google Apps for Microsoft Outlook works, watch this three minute video.