Friday, July 25, 2008

Work and home calendar integration – false signs of iPhone hope

I’m sorting through this warily. It’s like juggling antimatter. I have backups, don’t try this if you don’t.
I’m still striving towards the primeval goal of an integrated work/home calendar view. Palm failed this test. I thought the iPhone wasn’t even in contention, but I’m now seeing some faint signs of hope.
Here’s what I see so far:
  • The iPhone more or less supports multiple calendars.
  • It appears possible that an iPhone can sync differentially with multiple machines. I sync with an iMac at home, but in cautious testing I can connect and charge my iPhone at work while turning off the automatic sync option. I can differentially configure sync options for the work machine. [Update: this is not correct. After real world tests on OS X and XP I am convinced that iPhone 2.0 can truly sync with only one machine, and that machine better be a Mac. I think 10.4 may work, haven't tried 10.5. This is a regression from iPhone 1, which could sync safely with Outlook.]
  • iTunes PC has an option to sync Outlook with a “selected calendar”
  • Apple - Support - Discussions - Sync iPhone with work Outlook (Exchange ... confirms that Exchange server sync (includes some Sharepoint access!) takes over the entire phone. So while it has lots of appealing features, it’s out of the running for my purposes. In any case, Apple’s Exchange implementation is very weak: “"There are several common-- nay, fundamental-- things that you cannot do with the iPhone calendar application. You cannot:
    • create a meeting request and invite other people to attend..
    • create a recurring meeting unless it is repeated daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or yearly. That's right-- no more "first Thursday of every month" or "every Monday, Wednesday, Friday" appointments…
    • view suggested meeting times or free/busy times, either for your own calendar or for others'…
    • move to an arbitrary date, in either the future or the past…
But how does the iPhone do selectively synchronizing via USB cable with an Outlook Exchange Server client? Will it safely sync with an Outlook appointment that has attendees and schedule exceptions without wrecking the appointment? If I could enforce one way update of the iPhone rather than true bidirectional sync I’d test this out.

I’ve opened an Apple Discussion thread on this. More updates as I learn more.

Update 2 

Complete despair.  The list of calendars to sync with is a list of Outlook calendars, not iPhone calendars. If you sync with the work calendar it wipes out all the home calendars. Heart breaking, really. (There is an option, btw, to force unidirectional updates from Outlook, but it must be manually set with every synchronization.)

Update 3

Just for the heck of it, I did a one way calendar sync from Outlook to the iPhone. I acknowledged my iPhone calendar would be replaced from Outlook. After about a half hour the progress-indicator free process stopped. My Outlook calendar was still intact. That was good. My iPhone calendar was empty. Nothing there.

Wow. No wonder Apple is pushing iPhone 2.1 out to developers. They really mucked this release up!

(See comments for a rumor that a combination of MobileMe and Exchange Push can produce a joint calendar on the iPhone. I recommend against trying any iPhone sync until after 2.1 is out.)


Dr. Mike Norman said...

I too am befuddled as to why this functionality is not enabled and/or properly documented. I do not sync my iphone with my work pc, but I do sync it with my mac at home.

Outlook should be my work calendar, and iCal my home calendar. Why does exchange integration want to take over both calendars? (not to mention wipe out my non-work contacts)

Rob said...

If you use the Push approach you can get exchange and MobileMe calendars on the phone.

I have a comment at this post.