The Exclusion of Outlook RT: A Deal Breaker for Business Users

Andrew Froehlich, Network Engineer & IT Consultant | 9/26/2012 | 18 comments

Andrew Froehlich
For many businesses, the most anticipated tablet of the year isn't running iOS or Android, but Microsoft's Windows 8 RT software.

This is the tablet version of the full-blown desktop OS that shares much of the same code, and more importantly, many of the same applications, including Microsoft Office. It's as close to a battery-efficient PC in tablet form as you can get right now, but the exclusion of Outlook may deter many businesses from even considering it.

While at work or at home, I use Microsoft Office applications on a daily basis. From writing up Word documents, to Excel spreadsheets, and even the occasional Powerpoint presentation, the Office suite is used by virtually anyone who works on computers in a business environment. Microsoft clearly knows this product is a great differentiator in the tablet market and they've made a very smart move by bundling tablet-optimized versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote with the Windows 8 RT tablets that will be shipping this fall.

Too bad they didn't take the same consideration when thinking about Outlook, the one Office RT application that is critical to businesses and noticeably absent from Microsoft's suite. And since Outlook mail is so prevalent in the business world, it might very well be the deal breaker for many businesses.

If you look at the desktop version of Outlook, you can see that it would be a considerable challenge to transform it into a touch-friendly and optimized app that could be run on small-screen tablets with low-powered ARM processors. Instead of a full-blown experience, Microsoft is hoping that users will be satisfied using Outlook Web Access (OWA) or a stripped down mail app.

But it's my guess that many business professionals will be very disappointed that a touch version of the Outlook desktop application is not included, as there are many key mail, calendar, and meeting features that can only be done through Outlook. I know of several people who continue to carry a laptop with them everywhere they go simply because they need to have access to Outlook at all times. Sadly, a Windows 8 RT tablet won't fix this problem.

It should be noted that the other applications included in Office 2013 RT look fantastic and should be a real hit with many business professionals. Additionally, many vendors are developing Intel-based tablets that run the full version of Microsoft Windows 8 and therefore can run Outlook and any other Windows 7 or 8 app available. The caveat here is that this requires more powerful and expensive tablet hardware.

In the end, I can't help but feel that Microsoft missed out on a home run by excluding Outlook from being transformed in their low-end tablet OS. Instead, we're left with a few great applications we need, while leaving out one critical one. And if I still have to carry around both a tablet and a PC to complete all my business tasks, then what's the point?

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Andrew Froehlich   The Exclusion of Outlook RT: A Deal Breaker for Business Users   9/30/2012 9:25:06 AM
Re: Why oh why
@Joe -- perhaps it was bad marketing/timing.  But I think that many companies like Cisco realized that the real money isn't so much in the tablet hardware, but the software running on that hardware.
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Joe Stanganelli   The Exclusion of Outlook RT: A Deal Breaker for Business Users   9/30/2012 6:02:27 AM
Re: Why oh why
The Cisco, etc. "enterprise tablets" you speak of were merely victims of bad marketing and being before their time/ahead of demand.

One thing my dad likes to say: "There are no bad ideas; just bad timing."
vnewman   The Exclusion of Outlook RT: A Deal Breaker for Business Users   9/27/2012 6:41:22 PM
Re: Why oh why
I didn't realize this and I'm shocked!  I mean, why not just throw it in there for good measure?  If people don't want it or need it then fine, but why not at least give them the option to decide for themselves?

I mean, I know MSFT always wants to decide for you - i.e. "I think you're writing a letter" ala Clippy, but this just makes no sense to me.  
Andrew Froehlich   The Exclusion of Outlook RT: A Deal Breaker for Business Users   9/27/2012 4:23:43 PM
Re: Why oh why
"Personally, I've always thought the market for tablets in the enterprise is relatively limited anyway"

You might be absolutely correct Cyrus.  Remember the Cisco and Avaya "enterprise" tablets?!  But I think that there might be a niche for a low-cost model at some point.  My hope is that a Win 8 tablet can fill that niche...only time will tell.
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Cyrus   The Exclusion of Outlook RT: A Deal Breaker for Business Users   9/27/2012 4:12:46 PM
Re: Why oh why
@Andrew My guess is they're betting, rightly or wrongly, that many people who simply must remain connected to their e-mail already have a device for that and won't really rely on a tablet for it.

They could be badly missing the mark in their assumption, but it's worth noting that when most people are truly mobile (e.g. going from some point to another), wi-fi is not really a viable option and most people rely on wi-fi for tablet connections rather than an expensive wireless company data plan. Since their company is already likely subsidizing and/or providing them with a device for e-mail, they appear to be betting few people will care.

Personally, I've always thought the market for tablets in the enterprise is relatively limited anyway, since there's simply too much that you just can't do with ease.
Damian Romano   The Exclusion of Outlook RT: A Deal Breaker for Business Users   9/27/2012 3:55:07 PM
May be right...
I think the tension comes down to businesses utilizing the tablet. Personally I don't even touch Outlook outside of work. I'm a big gmail guy and have been for some time. However I don't think I've used another enterprise email system in close to 10 years when I used Lotus Notes.
Taimoor Zubair   The Exclusion of Outlook RT: A Deal Breaker for Business Users   9/27/2012 6:13:28 AM
Re: Why oh why
@Pablo: Personally, I prefer the Gmail interface much better than Outlook but I haven't been able to configure my Exchange email address with Gmail. I have all my other mailboxes connected to the Gmail and they run smoothly. I wonder if there's a way to use Exchange services via Google Apps.
Taimoor Zubair   The Exclusion of Outlook RT: A Deal Breaker for Business Users   9/27/2012 6:11:13 AM
App is the future
I think Outlook through an app is the future for Outlook on tablets and mobile devices. And that would be one standard version of on app on Android, iOS and Microsoft's own RT platform. Yes, the current app might not have the complete functionality but Microsoft can always upgrade it.
David Wagner   The Exclusion of Outlook RT: A Deal Breaker for Business Users   9/27/2012 1:08:50 AM
Re: Why oh why
Andrew- One of the reasons i don't use it so much is that I've had a few years of mobile device usage without it. I've been able to cut the leash.
Pablo Valerio   The Exclusion of Outlook RT: A Deal Breaker for Business Users   9/26/2012 2:25:09 PM
Re: Why oh why
@Sara, I believe MS is considering an online-only version of Outlook for tablets and mobile devices. People are comfortable with Gmail, Yahoo and MS Hotmail online, and the ability to sync contacts and calendars across devices.

I was a loyal user of Outlook until I tried Thunderbird for email, with the Calendar plug-in, but now I only use MS Office for Documents and Excel. The rest is Google Apps.
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