If you arrived here from Google, you might want to check out my latest post - iCal Server + iPhone 3.0 = EPIC WIN
My how things change in just a few months. Recent economic uncertainly, a new president elect…our outlook on the future changes by the minute.
Earlier this year, when I wrote about iCal Server being the "Holy Grail" of collaborative software on Mac, there wasn't much out there for an organization to share their calendar information on Macs. It was truly a revolutionary service, but like all things in technology, it's old news (although that post did push us to #1 in google's rankings for "iCal Server").
Since then, a new quest for the Holy Grail has emerged: syncing of your iCal Server calendar data to your iPhone 3G wirelessly over AT&T's 3G network or Wifi. We've been asked time and time again for a workgroup calendar solution that also allows people to have instant real-time updates to their iPhones without plugging in, called "Over The Air" or "OTA" syncing of iPhones.
So far, this quest has been fruitless. Apple's support of OTA syncing just isn't there on Leopard Server, and it doesn't look likely to change until the 2009 release of 10.6 Server. While Apple does include OTA syncing with MobileMe, their $99 per year online "cloud" service, it's hardly a cost effective option for businesses and doesn't work well with iCal Server.
Until 10.6 Server is launched, we have to work with one of two workarounds to get iCal server accounts to travel over the air to your iPhone.
The first option is a convoluted journey from iCal to Google Calendar then to your iPhone. iCal data can travel to Google Calendar via a program called BusySync, which you can purchase for $25. Once there, you can actually browse Google calendar via their convenient iPhone interface, available at http://m.google.com/calendar (a free Google account is required). However, to get that information to be "pushed" to your iPhone, you'll have to use a service from a site called "Nuevasync," a currently free service in beta mode.
In our testing, this option works for iCal server data to get to your iPhone relatively quickly (within 5-10 minutes), but it has its downsides. Firstly, data posted on your iPhone doesn't tend to make it back to iCal server reliabily. Secondly, each account that you want to set up requires a separate BusySync setup and a separate google calendar (unless you want everyone's calendar information intermingling). Worse yet, each user needs to run BusySync on a computer which is online constantly.
Bottom line: if the iPhone users are laptop users, you have to set up BusySync on "dummy" computers with their iCal and Google accounts programmed in. This makes this option quite limiting if a company wants to support a lot of users.
The second option is to use a script to copy your data from an iCal Server calendar to a MobileMe calendar on your computer's iCal, similar to this post. Since MobileMe accounts allow direct "push" to your iPhone, you don't need to get Nuevasync involved, but you do have to pay for MobileMe. Once again, in order for this to work, you need a computer to be doing this constantly, so laptop users will need to setup dummy accounts on a running computer just to make this work.
In the end, none of these solutions are ready for prime time (and we don't recommend either for a production environment), but if you have a small number of users in your company that need OTA sync with their iPhones and iCal Server, you can probably set up a workable solution for a while until better options come out next year.
Meanwhile, we'll continue to test out various options for getting data from your Leopard Server pushed to your iPhone - and we'll tell you if we make progress with easier and more reliable alternatives.