10 Mar

MS Outlook Keeps Growing as a Platform — What Portals Should Do

Here’s a recap of the Outlook plugins/add-ins I’ve heard about so far:

But there are in fact a lot more, for instance from Sperry Software (to save attachments off your inbox, remove duplicates and more), Mapi Labs (to send volume email to people as if it was personal, instead of using blind copy), OutlookConnect (synch with any ODBC-compatible RDBMS), or 4Team. All of this makes sense considering the huge installed base.
Now remember many people browser and shop online at work, where Outlook is typically used. Instead of just competing through its browser toolbar like everyone else (starting with Google), Yahoo should leverage its MyYahoo advantage. It’s silly that I have to launch a separate application (Intellisync for Yahoo) to synchronize the two. Why isn’t Yahoo co-opting features such as Outlook Today? That would contribute to kicking Google’s ass, in a space where it didn’t even start playing. (It will be fun to see how Google will choose to compete in email or IM, though I’m not holding my breath.)
Of course it would be the obvious thing for MSN to do, but I’ve stopped trying to figure out what these guys are up to and decided to write off the whole division as crap. Sure, this division is making money (I’m told they have good ad sales reps), but from a product perspective they’re right up there with AOL in the boring and useless department. Take MyMSN for instance. With all its drag-and-drop glitz (at least in IE, don’t bother in modern browsers), it’s still weak as far as features are concerned, and can’t even copy MyYahoo properly on the most basic stuff (like a weather module with temperatures in celcius). OK, it’s not all bad (they’ve got traffic reports, although only in the US, and eBay auctions, because who cares about Yahoo auctions anyway), but still, where’s the software integration with the rest of the company?
06/17/04 update: Niobe is "a prototype project that allows managed, smart client add-ins to be developed for Microsoft Office Outlook 2003."
08/29/05 update: PlanPlus: "task, plan, and information management."

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