There are people who think Outlook doesn’t need help?

Charlie Cooper wrote this post today with the simple premise that Outlook is in need of a "a top-to-bottom overhaul."  That’s something I’d consider far from controversial.  Yet a number of the comments are from people who seem to think Outlook is just fine the way it is.  That sort of blows my mind!

Use Outlook for any decent amount of time with a good-sized mail file and things will slow to a crawl unless you aggressively perform mail file maintenance (check out these tips Brad put together on the CC blog – they are a lifesaver for heavy Outlook users).

Companies like ClearContext and Xobni building on the Microsoft platform, Xoopit on Gmail, and whole new platforms like Zenbe and Zimbra (not to mention a slew of older webmail providers) all exist largely due to the fact that there has simply not been much innovation around email in the last decade or so.

I recently wrote about three next steps for email – this need has been a recurring theme among bloggers for the last few years, and a bunch of startups are now working on various ways to make email better in ways that Microsoft has not been able to do with Outlook.  Charlie and others talk about a number of reasons why Microsoft has not been the company making these changes, but it’s largely a simple BigCo vs startup situation.  Each rev of Office/Outlook is a HUGE undertaking and every single change is part of a massive project planning and development process, making it tough to be very nimble.  On the other hand, by focusing just on specific areas, startups can move much faster, even building on top of the existing Outlook platform. 

And there’s another big issue here as well – integration with non-Microsoft services and applications.  To really take email into the next generation means seamless integration with a lot of applications, content, and services that don’t come out of the Microsoft world – not an area where Microsoft is likely to lead the charge.

Outlook most definitely can benefit from a lot of next-generation advancements around email, and unless Microsoft heeds Charlie’s advice about a major rewrite, it’s likely to be a lot of startups who will be addressing the problem.  So I guess I hope Microsoft listens to some of those commenters who think Outlook is just fine!

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