September 24, 2009, 10:18 PM — With last month's release of Mac OS X 10.6, much has been made about the potential impact of the included Exchange support in Snow Leopard. Many pundits have even gone so far as to say that with Mac OS X 10.6, you won't need to deal with Exchange clients like Microsoft Entourage, or even the upcoming Outlook for Mac OS X ever again. Exchange support is already in there!
The reality of course, is a bit more complicated. So I set out to do a comparison of the Exchange support offered by Mac OS X 10.6 as compared to the current version of Microsoft Entourage 2008 Exchange Web Services, (EWS) edition. Thanks to the generosity of a Twitter follower named Michael Curtis, I was able to get an account on an Exchange 2007 server that was set up to talk to both Entourage EWS and Mac OS X 10.6.
Note: This is not going to be a "Which is the better client?" argument in the way most people like to do these things. "Better" is too subjective a term to be anything more than a flashpoint for yet another round in the never-ending "Which E-mail Client Rules" war. This is more of a comparison of Exchange feature set and support in each--nothing more.
If the auto-discovery built in to both products works right, setup is a snap. You point Mail or Entourage at your Exchange server, enter in some basic credential information and the account setup just happens. However, everything does well when everything works right. What happens when the auto-discovery doesn't work like it's supposed to?
In that case, Mac OS X 10.6's separation of applications works against it. Where Entourage only makes you enter the information once, with Mac OS X 10.6, when auto-discovery fails, you have to enter the Exchange account information separately into Mail, Address Book, and iCal--admittedly, not a hardship, but an annoyance that shouldn't be there. Apple should have provided a function that did something along the lines of: "Hey, I see you're manually setting up an Exchange account. Do you want me to configure Address Book and iCal with this info as well?"
(Minor point: Both products are far easier to deal with in a case like this than Outlook 2007. For one, you can't even set up an Exchange account in Outlook; you have to use the Mail control panel. In addition, if, for any reason, Outlook can't make a good connection to the Exchange server, the setup wizard will not allow you to just enter the information manually.)