Friday, January 30, 2015

Microsoft Outlook for iOS doesn't live up to its name

If you've used Microsoft's Windows 8-style OWA app for iOS, you know how awkward it is. When Microsoft released its Outlook app yesterday for iOS (as well as a preview version for Android), based on the Accompli app it acquired last year, many users rejoiced -- but only because they hadn't actually used the Outlook app.

Sad to say, Outlook for iOS is not very good. It feels both rushed and incomplete.
The Outlook for iOS UI is much cleaner than the OWA app's UI, which has the clunky Windows 8 design. But the text is too small for many people to read, and there are no settings to change the text size. Plus, Outlook doesn't honor iOS's Text Size settings. If you're over 40, you'll likely need reading glasses to use Outlook on even a full-size iPad.
Navigating Outlook email accounts and folders is also difficult, relying on an Android-style hover menu that requires much more effort than Apple Mail's simple "go back a pane" approach. But I give Outlook credit for easy filters, such as showing emails with attachments or unread messages. Although Apple Mail has more such smart filters, you have to set them up yourself.
The OWA app is restricted to Office 365 subscribers only, and solely for Exchange access. By contrast, the Outlook app lets you access any Exchange server (both on-premises and hosted), as well as several popular email services: Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo, and (the old Hotmail). But you can't set up email for other POP or IMAP accounts, as you can in Apple's native Mail app.
When you set up accounts, Outlook connects with email, calendars, and contacts, not only email. But it doesn't support tasks or notes, which Apple's apps do with Exchange, iCloud, and IMAP accounts — you'll need to use Apple's Reminders and Notes apps for that data.
You can set up cloud storage access for OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox, but oddly when you set up an Office 365 account that has an associated OneDrive account, OneDrive isn't automatically established. Neither is iCloud Drive if you set up an included account. Google Drive is automatically enabled if you set up a Gmail account.
Still, I like the Files view for email, which shows you all files for all active accounts (email and cloud storage) in one take. The user-configurable gestures in the mail list is also nice -- it basically works the same as Mail's feature except you get to choose only one button for each swipe in Outlook, versus several in Mail.
The Scheduled feature simply puzzles me. You can't schedule an email you are composing, but you can schedule messages you received, which doesn't make sense. There's also no way to mark mail as junk.
When composing an email, you can check your calendar and send out your availability, as well as create invites, but you can't add people to the invite as you can in Mail or OWA. Recipients get invitation files, but because you can't add people to the invite from the email, you have no record in your calendar as to who was invited and who responded. (You can add people to a calendar invite in the Calendar view.)
The calendar view is likewise frustrating. There's no ability to set up a repeating appointment — a ridiculous omission — and in Exchange, the Location field can't see your meeting rooms, as the OWA app and Outlook on a computer can (but not Apple Mail).

When you set up Exchange and Google accounts their calendars are enabled in the Calendar view of the Outlook app. But not iCloud calendars — those you have to manually enable. 
The People pane is quite limited, though useful. You tap a person's name to see all emails, meetings, and files associated with that person, and you can compose an email for a person from the pane. But you can't see any details for people, such as phone numbers. On an iPhone, you can't call someone from Outlook; you still must go through the native Contacts app in iOS to manage and interact with users broadly.

I'd say that Outlook is a decent start for Microsoft in bringing professional email to iOS and Android, except that it's a barely different version of the existing Accompli app, and it does less in some key areas than the awkward OWA app.
Let's be honest: Outlook for iOS and Android is a teaser app for something decent Microsoft might do in the future but is not doing now, a signal that one day we'll get real Outlook on mobile devices.
But currently, neither it nor OWA are good apps. Fortunately, Apple and Google have better apps already on your devices.
Galen Gruman

How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft

When Microsoft stock was at a record high in 1999, and its market capitalization was nearly $620 billion, the notion that Apple Computerwould ever be bigger — let alone twice as big — was laughable. Apple was teetering on bankruptcy. And Microsoft’s operating system was so dominant in personal computers, then the center of the technology universe, that the government deemed the company an unlawful monopoly.

This week, both Microsoft and Apple unveiled their latest earnings, and the once unthinkable became reality: Apple’s market capitalization hit $683 billion, more than double Microsoft’s current value of $338 billion.
At Apple’s earnings conference call on Tuesday, its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, called the quarter “historic” and the earnings “amazing.” Noting that Apple sold more than 34,000 iPhone 6s every hour, 24 hours a day, during the quarter, he said the sheer volume of sales was “hard to comprehend.”
Apple earned $18 billion in the quarter — more than any company ever in a single quarter — on revenue of $75 billion. Its free cash flow of $30 billion in one quarter was more than double what IBM, another once-dominant tech company, generates in a full year, noted a senior Bernstein analyst, Toni Sacconaghi. The stock jumped more than 5 percent, even as the broader market was down
A far more subdued Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, who is trying to transform the company and reduce its dependence on the Windows operating system, referred to “challenges.” Microsoft’s revenue was barely one-third of Apple’s, and operating income of $7.8 billion was less than a quarter of Apple’s. Microsoft shares dropped over 9 percent as investors worried about its aging personal computer software market.
Robert X. Cringely, the pen name of the technology journalist Mark Stephens, told me this week that when he interviewed Microsoft’s co-founder, Bill Gates, in 1998 for Vanity Fair, Mr. Gates “couldn’t imagine a situation in which Apple would ever be bigger and more profitable than Microsoft.”
“He knows he can’t win,” Mr. Gates said then of the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
But less than two decades later, Apple has won. How this happened contains some important lessons — including for Apple itself, if it wants to avoid Microsoft’s fate. Apple, after all, is now as dependent on the success of one product line — the iPhone accounted for 69 percent of its revenue — as Microsoft once was with Windows.
The most successful companies need a vision, and both Apple and Microsoft have one. But Apple’s was more radical and, as it turns out, more farsighted. Microsoft foresaw a computer on every person’s desk, a radical idea when IBM mainframes took up entire rooms. But Apple went a big step further: Its vision was a computer in every pocket. That computer also just happened to be a phone, the most ubiquitous consumer device in the world. Apple ended up disrupting two huge markets.
“Apple has been very visionary in creating and expanding significant new consumer electronics categories,” Mr. Sacconaghi said. “Unique, disruptive innovation is really hard to do. Doing it multiple times, as Apple has, is extremely difficult. It’s the equivalent of Pixar producing one hit after another. You have to give kudos to Apple.”
Walter Isaacson, who interviewed Mr. Jobs for his biography of the Apple co-founder and chief executive, said: “Steve believed the world was going mobile, and he was right. And he believed that beauty matters. He was deeply moved by beautiful design. Objects of great functionality also had to be objects of desire.”
Like many successful companies, Microsoft nurtured its dominant position, but at the risk of missing potentially disruptive innovations. “You have to acknowledge that Microsoft has been successful and it still is,” said Robert Cihra, a senior managing director and technology analyst at Evercore. “But clearly, they’ve struggled over how to protect the Windows franchise while not having that hold them back in other areas. I think even Microsoft would agree that they’ve been too concerned with protecting Windows over the years, to their detriment.”
By contrast, “Steve ingrained in the DNA of Apple not to be afraid to cannibalize itself,” Mr. Isaacson said. “When the iPod was printing money, he said that someday the people making phones will figure out they can put music on phones. We have to do that first. Now, what you’re seeing is that the bigger iPhone may be hurting sales of iPads, but it was the right thing to do.”

Mr. Cihra agreed: “Apple laid waste to its iPod business. They’re happier selling 74.5 million iPhones than they would be even if they still were selling that many iPods, which they wouldn’t be anyway because someone else would have cannibalized them.”
Microsoft has repeatedly tried to diversify, and continues to do so under Mr. Nadella. But “it’s been more of a follower whereas Apple has been more of a trendsetter, trying to reinvent an industry,” Mr. Sacconaghi said.
In belatedly buying Nokia, Microsoft is offering its own smartphone, the Windows phone, in head-to-head competition with Apple. While the device has garnered some critical praise, “I’m not sure consumers need a third option” to the Android and iOS platforms, Mr. Cihra said. Microsoft’s already tiny share of the smartphone market has been dropping.
Perhaps more surprising, the Apple model of integrating all aspects of the design and manufacture of a product, long abandoned by other manufacturers, has been vindicated. Microsoft was once content to stick to software, ceding processors to companies like Intel and the PCs themselves to an array of other manufacturers.
“Microsoft seemed to have the better business model for a very long time,” Mr. Isaacson said. “But in the end, it didn’t create products of ethereal beauty. Steve believed you had to control every brush stroke from beginning to end. Not because he was a control freak, but because he had a passion for perfection.”
Apple “proved that you want to own the hardware and not just the platform,” Mr. Cihra said. “With the advent of PCs, everyone gave up on that model except Apple. But if you get that model right, the upside leverage is huge. If you want an Android device, you can go anywhere. But if you want an iPhone, you have to go to Apple.
“If you can do that, you get pricing power, and the profitability is unbelievable.” Apple reported profit margins this quarter of just under 40 percent.
And then there’s Apple’s successful leadership transition to Mr. Cook, who took over as chief executive in 2011, shortly before Mr. Jobs died. It’s not that Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates’s immediate successor, and now Mr. Nadella haven’t done a decent job at the helm of Microsoft. Until this week’s dip, Microsoft shares were close to a record high. But Mr. Gates is still very much alive, and remains engaged with the company.
Mr. Jobs “told me that Tim Cook would be an inspiring leader,” Mr. Isaacson said. “He knew Tim wouldn’t wake up every morning trying to figure out what Steve Jobs would do. Steve would never have made a bigger iPhone. He didn’t believe in it. But Tim did it, and it was the right thing to do.”
Some investors worry that Apple could become the prisoner of its own success. As Mr. Sacconaghi noted, 69 percent of the company’s revenue and 100 percent of its revenue growth for the quarter came from the iPhone, which makes Apple highly dependent on one product line. “There’s always the risk of another paradigm shift,” he said. “Who knows what that might be, but Apple is living and dying by the iPhone. It’s a great franchise until it isn’t.”
Apple is also running into “the challenge of large numbers,” Mr. Cihra said. With a market capitalization approaching $700 billion, the number “scares people,” he said. “How can it get much bigger? How is that possible?” Apple is already the world’s largest company, by a significant margin.
But he noted that by many measures, Apple shares appeared to be a bargain. “The valuation is still inexpensive,” he said. “It’s less than 13 times next year’s earnings and less than 10 times cash flow,” both below the market average. “Those are very low multiples. They have $140 billion in cash on the balance sheet and they’re generating $60 billion in cash a year. All the numbers are just enormous, which is hard for people get their heads around.”
Mr. Cihra noted that Microsoft already dominates its core businesses, leaving little room for growth. But, he said, “Apple still doesn’t have massive market share in any of its core markets. Even in smartphones, its share is only in the midteens. Apple’s strategy has been to carve out a small share of a massive market. It’s pretty much a unique model that leaves plenty of room for growth.”
Can Apple continue to live by Mr. Jobs’s disruptive creed now that the company is as successful as Microsoft once was? Mr. Cihra noted that it was one thing for Apple to cannibalize its iPod or Mac businesses, but quite another to risk its iPhone juggernaut.
“It’s getting tougher for Apple,” Mr. Cihra said. “The question investors have is, what’s the next iPhone? There’s no obvious answer. It’s almost impossible to think of anything that will create a $140 billion business out of nothing.”

                                    NEWYORK  TIMES

The Brave New World of Windows 10

Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled a slew of new features and capabilities coming in Windows 10: the convergence of the desktop and mobile; the advent of the killer universal app; more power and features for personal digital assistant Cortana, which will be on mobile as well as desktops and laptops; improvements to maps; a new browser, code-named "Project Spartan"; a strong emphasis on gaming; and holographic computing.
Windows 10 will be offered as a free upgrade to owners of devices running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 for one year after it's released, said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Operating Systems Group.

A new build of Windows 10 will be released to Windows Insiders next week, and "after the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, we will be releasing our first build of Windows 10 on phones," Myerson announced. Super Bowl 2015 will be held Feb. 1.
"What is most notable is that we were shown five Microsoft platforms today, and they're all moving towards this single universal app direction, and that's a positive for developers, even though the process of tailoring it for those platforms is still a bit unknown," said Wes Miller, senior analyst at Directions on Microsoft.
"I imagine we'll see more at Build," he told TechNewsWorld.

It's a Holo New World

Perhaps the most dazzling announcement pertained to holographic computing.
Windows 10 "will be our best enterprise platform ever, simplifying management and deployment for IT and working seamlessly with existing enterprise applications," Myerson said.
Security will be beefed up: The hardware component "will protect against techniques used in the latest series of attacks," he pledged.
The universal app approach lets developers target devices ranging from maker boards to Xbox One to PCs to laptops to tablets to smartphones with one platform and one app store, Myerson pointed out. "We're making it as seamless as possible for developers to reach a large customer base."
Further, Windows 10 will be offered as a service, he disclosed, so "the question 'what version are you running?' will cease to make sense." That will make things even easier for devs.
Microsoft also is integrating IP messaging systems, particularly Skype, into its messaging app.
Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint will be incorporated into Windows 10 for mobile devices, and will work exactly as they do on PCs.

"What I'm hearing is pretty compelling in terms of the convergence of tablet and phone," IDC Program Director Al Hilwa told TechNewsWorld. "The availability of Office in a much more workable form on phablets and phones can be a game changer for how we travel and use smartphones for authoring content."
An Xbox app will be on every Windows 10 PC and mobile device. PC, smartphone and tablet users will be able to play games live with Xbox One users.
Windows 10 will include Direct X 12, which will increase performance by up to 50 percent over Direct X 11, Myerson said. It also will have half the power consumption of Direct X 11. Hundreds of studios, including Epic and Unity, support Direct X 12.
"Our worldview ... is not about mobility of any single device, but about the mobility of experiences across devices," declared Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "We want to make Windows 10 the most loved release of Windows."
Nadella underscored Microsoft's drive into mobile, saying it "will be doing some fantastic work, from flagship phones to affordable phones."
Microsoft "is definitely hoping that Windows 10 changes the game for them," Directions on Microsoft's Miller said.

Early Reactions

Nadella's stance on mobility "is about changing the battle to the quality of the experience, which Microsoft should be able to address better than anyone else," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
As for the emphasis on gaming, Microsoft is "making this a corporate initiative," he told TechNewsWorld.
"Sony struggled with just the Xbox division," Enderle pointed out, "Now they'll be facing the entire consumer side of Microsoft and will have to significantly up their game.

Microsoft Brings Outlook to iPhone, Other Mobile Devices

It’s easy to overlook the following of a product like Outlook, Microsoft’s email program, if you haven’t spent any time working in a large company.

Sure, Gmail has its converts, and many millennials shun email entirely for iMessage, Snapchat and other alternatives. But the world still has plenty of power email users and, for them, Outlook is as comforting and familiar as a pair of fleece pajamas.

This is why Microsoft’s release on Thursday of the first real Outlook for mobile devices, including iPads, iPhones and their Android variants, is a milestone. For Microsoft, it underscores how far the company has come from the days when it tried to use its Office suite of applications, of which Outlook is a member, to hurt Apple and Google Android devices by not making the software available on them.

Eventually, the company figured out it was only hurting Office’s profile among mobile users by doing this, and finally made amends by releasing iPhone, iPad and Android versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint last year.

On Thursday, Microsoft will announce that there have been 80 million downloads total of Office applications for iPhone and iPad since March of last year and 250,000 downloads of its Office Android apps.

In a phone interview, Julia White, general manager of the Office product management team, said iOS and Android versions of Outlook were among her group’s most frequently requested products.

Microsoft has had crude iOS and Android versions of its email program available for some time. The app, called OWA for Outlook Web Access, is in fact little more than a gussied-up Web site made to look like an app. It lacks the performance and features of a native email app.
Now, finally Outlook is a real mobile app. The product is based on the code of an email start-up, Accompli, that Microsoft acquired in early December. Although it isn’t clear yet how much Microsoft has changed Accompli’s product, the fact that Microsoft is releasing an Outlook app based on the software barely two months later is a sign of how quickly the pace has picked up at Microsoft. Satya Nadella, the company’s new chief executive, has made speed a priority at the company.
People can download the Outlook mobile app free. Microsoft is aiming to get users, especially business customers, to upgrade to Office 365, a subscription service.
For some professionals, the arrival of Outlook on tablets and mobile phones will give them one less reason to use a traditional computer running

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

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