Microsoft may be readying Outlook for ARM – or not
Behind closed doors could be where it stays
Sources say Microsoft is testing a version of Outlook for Windows RT, the flavor of Windows that runs on Redmond's ARM-based Surface RT tablets, but whether it will ever see the light of day is another matter.
Well-connected Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley reports that no less than three of her insider contacts have confirmed that an ARM version of Outlook exists, but that its future is clouded by internal politics.
All Windows RT devices, including Surface, come preloaded with a copy of Office 2013 Home & Student RT. But that bundle includes only Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote; Outlook ships only with the Home & Business edition and above.
That leaves Windows RT users with no way to do serious business messaging and collaboration on their devices. The built-in Mail, People, and Calendar apps for Windows RT offer only basic functionality – less than what you get with some smartphones – and there's nothing much in the Windows Store to improve on them. Really, the best solution is to use webmail.
According to Foley's sources, however, while some within Microsoft would like to rectify that situation, others would rather keep the current Windows RT bundle the way it is. Some of those apparently even think the correct solution would be to rename Windows RT's existing Mail app to Outlook – gotta work that branding!
But even if the camp that's pushing for a native ARM version of the full Outlook client wins the day, questions remain. Most notably, just how would Windows RT users get their hands on it?
Unless Microsoft has built Outlook RT as a Windows Store app – and while there's no word on whether it has, it seems unlikely, given the Windows Store's strict UI constraints – there would be no obvious way to load it onto current Windows RT devices, because Windows RT only allows Windows Store apps to be installed.
It's possible that Microsoft could release Outlook RT with a special kind of installer that loads it onto devices using some secret trick, but that's exactly the kind of thing it seems intent on preventing, as demonstrated by its efforts to shut down the Surface jailbreaking hack.
It seems more likely that Microsoft might be readying Outlook for inclusion with a future generation of Windows RT devices – one that has a more business-oriented bent. Call them Surface RT Plus, if you will, or Surface RT Home & Business Edition.
Or, as Foley's sources stressed, it could all be for naught, and Outlook RT will never be seen outside of Redmond.
Microsoft hasn't sold as many Surface RT devices as it had hoped, and lack of Outlook is hardly Windows RT's only deficiency. With Surface Pro due to arrive on February 9, Microsoft's best bet might be to send business customers that way. If that is the plan, releasing a version of Outlook for Windows RT would only muddy the waters – and it would probably add very little to Redmond's bottom line, to boot. ®
As His Unique Holiness, The Steve Of California Said
"they made the salesguy CEO"
Salesguys know how to work people, but they are normally very shallow on technology, strategy and analytical thinking. In this case, he doesn't understand the underlying reasons to go with ARM. I won't tell him here, as his minions might report it to him. The salesguy is on a nice trajectory to make MS insignificant, which is as good as IBM becoming history.
We finally have real competition in OSes (Linux vs BSD (variants) vs Polished Turd and the things they have built on top of that). There is even a chance that Blackberry establishes one more major competitor (QNX), which brings some real strengths.
"...its future is clouded by internal politics"
It's all fallen into place, at least in my mind. The total lack of actual surface devices in the places people normally go to buy their stuff, leaving out Media Center and no Outlook - these all seem to indicate that Microsoft don't really want to market a Home version of the thing.
That seems to be madness, given the amount of money they're putting into selling it to us ordinary folk, but it's logical if the reason is internal politics.
It's as if one faction didn't want a Home version at all and has sufficient clout to ensure that the 'Home version' faction only get to release a broken/crippled version.
If internal politics is going to be that costly to microsoft then I seriously wonder if it is going to last too many more years.
Re: Will they go all the way then?
"At this point, the mobile radio chips (cellular/Wifi) are still powered and connected but the CPU is sleeping. When a packet is received, the CPU is woken up to handle it. This is how Google's service works to push GCM, gtalk and app updates etc."
This is where Blackberry has a big and largely unacknowledged advantage. Their push mechanism allows the entire phone, save for the radio receiver, to be powered off. Crucially the power hungry bit of the radio chip is the transmitter (it might be drawing more than 2 Watts), and that is switched off. They can do this because of the tight integration of BB services into the radio layer signalling of the cell network operator's systems, which costs you £5/month. That's well worth it - your battery lasts a lot longer, and it's cheaper if you're busy and on a data limited connection contract. It's also effectively instant because there's no polling involved at all (unless that's happening server side - e.g. a BIS account polling a POP3 mailbox on the mobile's behalf).
BB dress this mechanism up into a push service API that any app developer can use. It uses an SSL connection on the server side and a call back on the mobile client side. The underlying mechanism is hidden from you, and the app need do nothing special to make it work.
It's RIM's prime piece of intellectual property and it's patented up to the hilt, which is why no one else has replicated it.
I don't think that RIM speak enough about this piece of technology. It's been there so long that I think they've forgotten how neat it is in comparison to anyone else's push mechanism. They invented it long before the whole mobile revolution took place. And now there's an entire generation of devs who have no idea that there's anything special about it.
Everyone I speak to who has an interest in mobile app development has no idea about how it actually works and assume that BB push is as wasteful of power as everyone else's. Even RIM's own documentation talks about only the advantages but doesn't explain how they're achieved. This leaves developers with no real information about the key piece of technology that differentiates BB push from anyone else's push API, meaning that the claims are often dismissed as marketing blurb. RIM need to shout about it more than they do.