10 Mar

Microsoft Outlook as a Platform – Still Relevant in the 2010s?

This 2004 entry was updated from the 2015 vantage point, keep reading to the bottom for entertaining archaeology.

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?


08/12/15 – New Outlook partner add-ins and expanded rollout of Outlook.com preview. IFTTT coming soon!

05/25/15 – Wow, is this entry showing its age! Of course Google has made big inroads with Gmail since I wrote this post, nobody expects Yahoo to succeed at anything, and Microsoft has firmly become legacy software. But in some ways even Google is still neglecting the massive opportunity that email stubbornly continues to be. Why is Gmail as a platform provided by Streak, a third party?

Let’s see how the players from 2004 evolved in the past 11 years:

  • Newsgator changed its name to Sitrion in January 2014 and is now focused on mobile
  • Plaxo was acquired by Comcast in 2008, seems to be in maintenance mode these days
  • Taskline is still actively maintained
  • GTDOA moved here
  • Lookout was bought by Microsoft 4 months after I posted this entry
  • Cloudmark now has a broader focus on security
  • SpamBayes last update on SourceForge is dated from May 2013
  • Anagram is now known as Copy2contact, latest news entry dated December 2013
  • Paypal doesn’t appear to have updated its Outlook wizard in a long time
  • Newslook “is no longer maintained nor available”
  • Sperry Software is still releasing updates, though their website seriously needs a redesign which is something they’re working on.
  • MapiLab, Geniusconnect, and 4Data are similarly sporting dated designs but otherwise still churning out updates.
  • PlanPlus (below) stayed stuck to Outlook 7
  • A few more listed here

In other words “Outlook as a Platform” has become about as relevant as “Lotus Notes as a platform”, the product Microsoft often displaced with Outlook in combo with MS Exchange on the server. Which means not terribly relevant! These products still have sizable installed bases, but few sane, young and growing organizations will even have them on their radar, and there’s little interest from new developers.  Still, there’s probably a few billion dollars worth of yearly spending in licenses and services between Exchange/Outlook, Sharepoint, Notes, and even a few others that refuse to die like Novell GroupWise (still a thing!).

08/29/05 – PlanPlus: “task, plan, and information management.”

06/17/04 – Niobe is “a prototype project that allows managed, smart client add-ins to be developed for Microsoft Office Outlook 2003.”

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