Microsoft’s Outlook for iOS and Android get visual design refresh

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Microsoft Outlook Is Getting Ready To Cannibalize Calendar App Sunrise.

The iOS version is getting a “clean, refined new look that puts your email, calendar, people and files, front and center,” while Android users can expect “redesigned header, message list, and compose experiences” that are consistent with Google’s Material Design standard, Javier Soltero, corporate vice president for the Outlook team, wrote in a blog post.Microsoft announced today it will roll out new versions of its flagship mobile email application, Outlook for iOS and Outlook for Android, which combined, reach nearly 30 million users, the company says.

MICROSOFT IS ABOUT TO INCUR the wrath of loyal users once again, including several INQUIRER staff, after confirming that the company is to merge its popular Sunrise calendar app into Outlook, discontinuing the standalone version “down the line”.Since acquiring Acompli Inc. for $200 million last December, Microsoft has become the No. 3 ranked e-mail software for Apple Inc.’s mobile operating system. The upgraded app on iOS largely received visual tweaks and fixes, focused on saving users time and improving navigation, while the Android version will soon feature a Material Design look-and-feel and other user interface improvements. Sunrise is easily our favourite cross-platform calendar app, and we all took a big gulp when it was purchased by Microsoft last year as we waited to see what would happen. Instead of building something from scratch—as Microsoft is normally wont to do—the company had acquired a startup called Acompli and given it the ultimate stamp of approval by rebranding its apps as Outlook.

However, the bigger news is that Microsoft plans to integrate the functionality from its mobile calendaring app Sunrise into Outlook, then shutter the Sunrise application when the integration completes. Not bad considering Acompli arrived with just “hundreds of thousands of users” said Javier Soltero, the Microsoft Outlook vice president who was Acompli’s co-founder and chief executive officer. It swam against the mobile-app tide—which currently favors unbundling features into discrete apps—by packing ambitious email, calendar, and cloud-storage features into one experience. Microsoft is planning to bring Sunrise’s best features to Outlook, and it starts today with a few software tweaks for Outlook on iOS for easier navigation.

The popular iOS email app has already been rebadged as Outlook for Mobile, and now Sunrise is to be absorbed into it, starting today with some tweaks to the iOS calendar. Going forward, “all the features you love in Sunrise are coming to Outlook soon,” Sunrise said. “Expect features like Interesting Calendars, Connected Apps and our 3-day view to show up before the end of the year.” For a full rundown of the changes, head over to Microsoft’s Office Blog. Having compelling e-mail software available on the iPhones that many workers use is helping persuade companies to sign up for Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud apps, Soltero said. Stats on mobile email market share are tough to come by, but that represents a huge jump from Acompli, which had fewer than 200,000 users before it morphed into Outlook.

Microsoft also said a new Outlook mobile app for Windows Phone is “coming soon.” The Outlook Mobile apps have collectively racked up 30 million active users since launching nine months ago. Things are going well enough that Javier Soltero, cofounder and CEO of Acompli, is now VP of Outlook, responsible for the product’s incarnations on PCs and the web as well as mobile devices.

About one in five of those users are connecting more than one account, and users are launching the app 1.2 billion times per month, Microsoft said. “These numbers show what we’ve known for some time — despite reports to the contrary — email is a key communications channel across all parts of our life,” Soltero said. We will leave Sunrise in market until its features are fully integrated into Outlook, the exact timing of which we will communicate in advance.” There’s no date for the retirement of Sunrise, and as yet no sign of absorbing Wunderlist, the company’s other big mobile app purchase, but it’s coming as the company pushes harder and harder to get people using its own products, if it can’t persuade them to actually buy a Windows Phone. They’re the first ones that the Sunrise team helped create, and even though Soltero says they include hundreds of changes, they’re not major upgrades by any conventional standard. Currently, Outlook’s biggest selling point is that it makes it easier to be productive in email while on the go, by allowing users to attach and view files from online file storage services, like OneDrive and Dropbox; access all their contacts, calendars and attachments from one interface; check their availability and book meetings on the fly; and more. We’ve put up with your downloading Windows 10 randomly and we’ve put up with your Uber integration and even Alex Kipman’s ridiculous hair, but this is a bridge too far.

As you swipe from day to day in the calendar, the little gizmo that you tap to get back to today rotates to indicate how far you’ve gone into the future or past. However, it makes sense that Microsoft would want to put the technical and design expertise behind its bigger brand name application and its growing number of users.

There are, however, no plans to perform a similar merger between Outlook and Wunderlist. “The task domain is really its own universe of functionality and innovation,” says Soltero, who calls the to-do app “an incredible complement to the core Outlook experience.” Between the mobile startups that Microsoft acquired and its existing engineers, Soltero says he supervises thousands of people working on Outlook. After taking charge of the product, he pointed out to the team that iOS and Android both grew enormously successful, years before Outlook was available for them—a striking contrast with Windows PCs, where the app has defined the de facto corporate email experience since the 1990s. “Candidly, Microsoft people weren’t built to hear that,” he remembers. “There was a lot of silence.” Now the team is working to reimagine Outlook for an era when email still matters, people do it on more gadgets than ever, and Microsoft faces plenty of competition, including the apps that Apple and Google build into their platforms. “We have no birthright on these devices,” he says. “We have to earn it.”

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