But It’s All Marketing Brown Smelly Stuff
I had a quiet chuckle when I read Microsoft’s assertion that the release of shared calendar improvements in Outlook for Windows is “arguably the biggest change to Outlook for Windows since its initial release in 1997.” This hyperbole exists only in the minds of Microsoft marketing and is absolutely untrue. It amuses me that sites like the Verge and ZDnet give credence to the claim.
What’s true is this: after nearly twenty-five years of sharing calendars, Microsoft is gradually getting control of the mess that allowing other people access to your calendar can be. The new model extends across OWA and Outlook for Mac (both there now) and is reaching Outlook for Windows slowly. That’s goodness, even if the Outlook mobile team is trying to forge their own path with delegate access (only for the Inbox for now). I’m sure that my MVP colleague, Ingo Geganwarth, who spends more time than anyone else I know battling with delegate issues, will be happy with the progress.
What Microsoft doesn’t say is that the changes only apply to Exchange Online. There’s no mention of Outlook for Windows perpetual versions connected to Exchange Server. That’s a pity, but it’s not unexpected.
Good Progress in Calendaring
There’s no doubt the Outlook calendaring team is doing some nice work, such as adding the new board view to the calendar in OWA. Work has also been done to take the OWA version of the Room Finder across to Outlook for Windows as part of Microsoft’s One Outlook initiative where common components are shared across clients. Some of my favorite engineering contacts at Microsoft work on Outlook calendaring, so I don’t wish to be unkind about their work.
But fixing something which should have been fixed a long time ago isn’t even close in the pantheon of major developments in Outlook for Windows. When I consider the most important and far-reaching changes since Outlook 97 debuted, I think of things like:
- Drizzle mode synchronization, introduced in Outlook 2003 along with some extra network smarts, gave Outlook the ability to synchronize a complete mailbox and to do so intelligently with high-priority threads used for outgoing messages and lower-priority threads synchronizing folders in the background.
- Autodiscover gave Outlook an auto-configuration capability by delivering a manifest of available services which clients could then connect to. Teams uses Autodiscover to learn how to find Exchange resources like user calendars.
- Outlook Anywhere allowed Outlook clients to connect to Exchange across the Internet without needing a VPN. Its successor, MAPI over HTTP, connects Outlook clients to Exchange Online. Without these protocols, Outlook for Windows wouldn’t be a viable Office 365 client.
I’m sure you can come up with your own candidates for Outlook stardom. The point is that many fundamental technical advances have happened in the past which are still in use and have proven their worth over long periods. I’m sure the change in shared calendar behaviour will improve matters, but the jury’s still out whether it is a change of import.
Oh well. Marketing is marketing. What do you think is the most important change made to Outlook since 1997?