February 4, 2015 marked the one year anniversary of Satya Nadella
taking over as CEO of Microsoft from Steve Ballmer
. Satya made it his mission to turn Microsoft around in a world where rivals Apple and Google are very mobile-focused. He stated that Microsoft will now focus on the strategy of "mobile first, cloud first
". It was only a couple months after Satya took his position that Microsoft soon acquired the Nokia Devices and Services business, as Nokia is the primary hardware device running their Windows Phone operating system. A few months later they made big improvements to the Office apps on iOS and Android making them even more touch friendly, and have added the ability to access your documents in Dropbox in addition to OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, and iCloud. The last few months have been even more interesting as Microsoft has made some very interesting mobile apps acquisitions.
It was announced in December 2014 that Microsoft purchased Acompli
for over $200m. Acompli, a venture-backed startup headquartered in San Francisco with a team of 23 (plus one dog)
, was barely 18 months old, but Microsoft was so impressed with their mobile email app - which actually has email, calendar, and files all-in-one - and knew they needed something a bit more polished and feature-rich than the existing Outlook Web App (OWA) that was (and still is) available for iOS and Android. Shortly after the acquisition, Acompli was renamed the official Outlook app and remains free. Microsoft stated that there would be updates to the Outlook app "every few weeks". Developers wasted no time as they were quick to make changes and add features such as the much requested PIN enforcement when connecting to your corporate Exchange/Office 365 email server. They've also recently added support for IMAP, appeasing many users.
Some Features of the New Outlook App:
- Supports mailboxes from Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Google Apps, Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo, Outlook.com, Hotmail, Live, and IMAP.
- Add files to your emails from your OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive
- Configurable Swipe Options. Configure each direction (left and right) to do one of 6 actions: Archive, Delete, Schedule, Move, Mark as Read/Unread, Flag
- Automatically triaged email using a Focused and Other view into your Inbox.
- Quick Filter view of your Inbox (Unread, Flagged, Files)
- Quickly show all email from people who have recently emailed you
- Ability to view multiple accounts at once
- Built-in calendar. You don't need to jump out of the app and start up another app to see your calendar.
- Ability to easily add your location with a map in an email
- Ability to easily add your availability in an email by simply tapping on the time slots you are available
- Schedule email. This is a different approach to using flags, which is what I typically use for email that needs to be followed up on. This allows you to schedule an email to reappear in your inbox as a new message by selecting one of four options: "In a few hours", "This evening", "Tomorrow morning", or "Choose a time".
- Easily send a notification to meeting invitees that you are running late
- Add files as attachments after you have already started composing the message
Features I Would Love to See Added:
- A VIP filter & notification option like the native iOS mail app. I like to be notified differently when I receive email from my team members, or even my family.
- Better support for fonts/scalability. The native iOS mail app is able to scale the text separately from the graphics that may be in the email, making it much easier to read. The Outlook app seems to scale for everything, which means if there is a wide graphic in the email, it makes the text really small.
- Widget integration into the Today section of the iOS Notification Center
- A Windows Phone version to further the "one" vision Microsoft has
Microsoft is actively developing this app and I wouldn't be surprised to see my feature request become reality. I suspect there will also be some new & exciting features added over time to further entice users to switch from whatever mail app they're using to Outlook.
Next up in the buying spree is Sunrise. Microsoft acquired the innovative calendar app Sunrise
in early February 2015 for at least $100m. Sunrise was launched 2 years ago in New York with a goal of reimagining the calendar. While very similar to Fantastical, another very popular calendar app which is available for $4.99
in the iOS App Store, Sunrise is free and is available on more platforms. Fantastical is currently available for iOS devices and Macs, while Sunrise is available for iOS devices, Macs, Android devices, and even just your web browser.
Some Features of the Sunrise App:
- Compatible with Google, iCloud, and Exchange calendars
- Integration with other apps: TripIt, Asana, Google Tasks, Producteev, Evernote, GitHub, Todoist, Trello, Eventbrite, Songkick, and Foursquare
- Facebook birthdays and events with the ability to post right to the contact's timeline from within the app
- Provides Facebook profile links for contacts if available
- 25,000 "Interesting Calendars" overlay. Choose from things like public holidays, notable days, sports schedules, moon phases, name days, week numbers, etc.
- Time zone support making it easier to keep up with your appointments when traveling
- See faces and profiles of people you are meeting with using LinkedIn
- Weather forecasts based on your location
- Smart icons based on the event type
- Ability to use Apple Maps, Google Maps, or Waze for mapping and directions
- Tap & hold support to add appointment to 3 day calendar view
- Widget integration in the iOS Notification Center with the ability to create an entry right away
Features I would Love to See Added:
- Landscape view. Yes, I know I can see 3 days at a time, but the iOS and Fantastical calendars provide a 6 day landscape view. It just comes in handy sometimes.
- Auto-sizing of the All Day events when looking at the 3 day view so I don't need to scroll and tap inside of small window
- Exchange support in the web interface
Unlike rebranding Acompli to Outlook, Microsoft intends to keep the Sunrise name as well as keep it a free stand-alone app, while using some of Sunrise's technology for its own future products. It'll be interesting to see if that means eventually rolling that technology into the official Outlook app.
Enjoy the Ride
With all this heavy investing into the mobile productivity space, the speed and aggressiveness at which things are moving, and the release of updated, high-quality, touch-enabled versions of Word, Excel (now with a customized keyboard for Android devices
), PowerPoint, and OneNote (now with handwriting support on iPad) on iOS and Android devices, it's easy to see that Satya has successfully shifted the focus at Microsoft to better compete in the mobile device world we live in. A quick look at their stock
also shows that investors like where Microsoft is heading with an increase of nearly $7 per share over the past year, making me really wish I had some Microsoft stock. I'll instead just sit back and enjoy the ride as we're bound to see more exciting things develop down the road this year.