Once again, Microsoft is proving just how its new agile way of doing business is best for it and the owners of smartphones that aren’t running its Windows Phone operating system. This morning the maker of Lumia Windows phones, Surface PCs and more announced Outlook for iOS and Outlook for Android, two new apps that it hopes will further lock users into its Microsoft Office suite no matter what platform they’re on.
Microsoft announced the new Outlook for iOS and Outlook for Android apps in a post on its Microsoft Office Blog early this morning. As of right now, both apps are available in the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store for users to download absolutely free of charge. Users of the desktop version of Outlook will be familiar with the tools included in Outlook for iOS and Outlook for Android. Calendar syncing, contact syncing and email syncing are all there, waiting for users to put in their details and get productive.
Though not as instantly recognizable to users at home as Microsoft Word, millions of people use Outlook to stay organized at work and at home. It’s how entire companies manage their email and appointments. Until today, Microsoft hadn’t released an Outlook client for smartphones and tablets – opting to keep Outlook as a Desktop app for Microsoft Office buyers and as a perk for the Surface 2. iPhone users should rest assured, almost any email account you can get is available through this app. Exchange, Outlook.com, iCloud, Google, Yahoo are all featured by name. POP3 and IMAP accounts created by webhosts don’t seem to be supported yet, which is pretty strange.
Users sort their email based on what’s important to them. A general Inbox holds all of their email. A Focused Inbox pairs everything down to the things users need to handle right away. Swiping to the left on an email lets users schedule an appointment based on that email. Attachments from OneDrive and Dropbox are supported, and the apps other tools are available at any time pretty effortlessly.
All told, it’s a pretty robust email experience. All indications are that the Outlook apps are based on Acompli, the Android and iPhone apps that Microsoft purchased last year. Regardless of where they came from, they complete the Microsoft Office experience. The company already has tablet and phone versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
Since 2011, Microsoft has changed the way it deals with mobile users. Years ago, the company would have used something like this new Outlook app to push the Windows Phone operating system and devices that run it. Today, Microsoft hopes that users purchase its hardware to get the best experience, but it has no problem going after users wherever they are. In fact, today, some would argue that the Microsoft Office experience that users get on the iPhone is way beyond the tired and somewhat cumbersome apps that are built into Windows Phone.
Apple makes tons of apps for Mac, iPhone and iPad but it counts on those apps luring users into buying its new hardware. That works, but for as long as the device stays interesting and at the top of sales charts, by not putting up some of its software for sale on Windows – like Pro Tools – Apple is building a walled garden. As long as users stay within that wall, they’re fine. If they try to leave they’ll need new apps and services to take the place of the Apple-made apps and services they depend on.
Besides announcing Outlook for iOS and Outlook for Android, Microsoft also confirmed that the other Microsoft Office apps for Android were finished and available for everyone. It launched those late last year.