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Monarch’s Path to Replace Outlook for Windows is Rocky at Times
On June 20, 2023, Microsoft updated message center notification MC590123 covering the “Future of the Mail and Calendar apps in Windows with Outlook.” This note caused a lot of fuss and bother, but essentially it all boils down to one thing. At the end of 2024, Microsoft will discard the old Mail and Calendar apps in Windows 11 and replace them with the Outlook Monarch (“One Outlook”) client. This makes perfect sense because it replaces two so-so marginal apps with a core app that Microsoft is pouring development resources into with the intention of replacing the current Outlook for Windows app.
The idea behind Monarch is that Microsoft will have a single Outlook app that can run on multiple platforms. By design, Monarch should be able to connect to any email server, including Exchange Online and Exchange Server, Outlook.com, Gmail, and IMAP4/POP3 servers. At this point in its development, Monarch still some way from that point. The support article summarizes the situation as:
“New Outlook for Windows supports Exchange-backed Microsoft 365 work or school accounts, Outlook.com accounts, and Gmail. Currently, the new Outlook for Windows does not support other account types like Yahoo!, iCloud, or other account types connecting through POP/IMAP protocols. New Outlook for Windows also does not currently support On-Premises, Hybrid, or Sovereign Exchange deployments.”
Some might be surprised at the last sentence where Microsoft reports that Monarch can’t currently connect to Exchange Server on-premises or hybrid or sovereign Exchange deployments. The last term means, I think, that Monarch doesn’t currently support the non-commercial Office 365 clouds like Office 365 China or GCC. This is probably because of the additional code and testing required to sign off deployment of software in these environments.
Bringing Monarch to Exchange On-Premises
As to Exchange Server, some recent changes in modern authentication for Exchange Server based on AD FS probably mean that some extra work is needed before Monarch can connect to Exchange 2019. Monarch is based on OWA, but not the version of OWA that runs on Exchange 2019, which is the only version supporting modern authentication. As to hybrid environments, Monarch needs to cope with hybrid modern authentication.
I guess Microsoft views the need to support all the variations at play with Exchange Server to be of lesser importance than achieving other goals, like giving Monarch the ability to work offline. Anyway, it’s not like there’s a flood of user requests coming from the on-premises world tpo replace the current Outlook for Windows.
Connecting Monarch to Gmail
Coming back to the point in hand, I’ve been using Monarch ever since it first became available. This week I decided to connect it to my Gmail account and was surprised at how easy the process was. Start off by going to Outlook Options and choose Accounts. You can then add a new account to the set by typing in the email address (Figure 1).
Next, Monarch informs you that you need to sign into Gmail. This step is necessary to validate that you own the Gmail account and can authorize Monarch to connect to the account. Monarch invokes a new browser tab and announces that you must go there to complete the OAuth 2.0 sign in to the Google account.
After successfully signing in, Monarch (or rather, Microsoft apps & services) requests consent for it to have the permissions needed to access email in your Gmail account (Figure 2). Quite why Monarch needs to know my exact date of birth is a mystery, but it’s one of the request permissions.
After receiving authorization, Monarch accesses the Gmail account using the Gmail API to display messages in its UI. Interaction with Gmail is like accessing messages in Exchange Online. The obvious difference is the reduced set of options that Monarch supports for Gmail compared to Exchange Online, probably due to API limitations. However, I was happy to discover that I could search and find some old Gmail messages, such as those relating to an Exchange 2010 Maestro training seminar that Paul Robichaux, Brian Desmond, and I delivered in 2011 (Figure 3).
The days of two-day in-person intense hands-on training are probably gone, but I enjoyed the Exchange 2010 Maestro events very much indeed.
Slow and Steady Progress
Microsoft is making steady progress with the Monarch client. Development is probably too slow for some, but the fact is that the current Outlook for Windows client supports so much functionality that replacing it was always going to be a massive task. Replacing the Mail and Calendar apps in Windows 11 is just a sideshow, albeit one that will deliver much better functionality for some long-maligned clients.
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