back to article Mobile first? Microsoft decides to kneecap its Android users instead

Microsoft can often resemble a heavily armed octopus trying to shoot itself in the head. But even after 25 years of watching Redmond's finest, it still has the capacity to astonish us with the imaginative ways it can screw things up. It gave us another example last week. Mobile platforms are vital to Microsoft, but it doesn't …

  1. Cirdan
    Meh

    Blechh - Outlook.com

    At least Outlook.com lets me use POP3 so I can use Thunderbird.

    What an overwrought, cpu cycle stealing cow of a beast outlook.com is in the browser. Can't even find the "only text mail, no HTML dammit" setting.

    Thunderbird. Better now.

    ...Cirdan...

    "Get off my lawn"

  2. fnusnu

    And the security snafu

    This shambles also caused a bit of concern....

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/19/redmond_updates_outlook_app_but_haters_still_gunna_hate/

  3. dogged

    tl:dr - AO doesn't like the Accompli/Outlook client.

    er....

    that's it.

  4. Your alien overlord - fear me

    I use a custom domain hosted via Outlook.com. Moved it to another provider this weekend because of the retarded new app. Going standard IMAP now.

    The reason Gmail has so many users is not because it's good, but to access the Play store.

  5. Bota

    My 2 cents

    As someone who hates ms but needed to use a mobile email application from them, prior to this clusterfuckery their outlook app from the play store was outstanding. I use my ms account for uni and we frequently get last minute changes emailed to us so keeping something on my phone made sense.

    The main issue I have with the new outlook is that it doesn't alert you efficiently when a new email comes in. It might on some days and not on others and it might just be me but their spam filter seems to be taking garden leave.

    Ironically, the only truly excellent software they (ms) ever provided imo was that app prior to changing it. Shame really, because it was flawless.

  6. Test Man

    Yeah, Outlook is quite bad.

    I installed it when it got rebranded a while back. Wasn't impressed.

    Now the Outlook.com app has been updated to knobble the client altogether, so you have to use the new Outlook app. Unfortunately the "new" app hasn't really moved on at all.

    The options are so sparse, compared to the old app, that it makes you wonder what have they been doing with their time? You can't set sync strategies. Calendar is strictly within the app only, although like the article says Contacts IS spaffed in amongst your Android contacts but there's no option to not do it. But the worst thing is that you can't set a name that your e-mails will be sent as. Which is the most basic option of all and is totally lacking.

  7. Norphy

    On the iOS version of Outlook, you can turn the focused inbox off. Can you not do the same for the Android version?

  8. RonWheeler

    Outlook.com > Outlook

    Loved the Outlook.com app, hate the Outlook one - it could have push disabled, which as a PAYG data customer is important. Also don't like the Swipe paradigm of the Outlook app they forced on me. Also hate the blocky garish Win8 style interface.

  9. dan1980

    Andrew . . . I have mixed feelings about this article.

    On the one hand, it is well-written, well-researched and accurate. On the other, unfortunately, it makes me so depressed.

    I have no inherent loyalty to Microsoft as a company but I have been using their products since I first started shunting drivers into himem on an old, hand-me-down 286 with a greyscale monitor. (It was years before I realised that Wolf3d was in colour*).

    I knew and loved dosshell, but never quite gelled with 3.1. Well, except for Minesweeper . . . I went through 95, skipped 98 but had 98se, used Me but never had a personal machine with it on and found 2000 to be such a revelation that I still feel fondly about it.

    All that nostalgia aside, I never really liked Microsoft as a company - I just liked the software they produced and, as it was what I grew up on, it remains the software I am most familiar with. It is therefore so very disappointing that so much that I loved about the software is not just gone but actively being excised in a mad race for subscription dollars - cloud and app stores and so forth. This is what 'cloud-first' and 'mobile-first' amounts to.

    * - And when I did first see it in colour it looked odd and I didn't like it at all.

  10. arkhangelsk

    GMail is not push E-mail?

    I didn't know that. It seems pretty pushy to me, with new E-mails being shoved into my face in my E-mail programs well below the timed "pull" delay.

    Any technicians can help me with this? Thanks.

    1. Jayman2005

      Re: GMail is not push E-mail?

      Polling can seem awfully close to "push".

    2. Test Man

      Yes, you can.

      1. RonWheeler

        Yes, you can, and I have, but the swipe paradigm sticks.

    3. Rob

      Great post...

      ... echoes my sentiments exactly.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GMail is not push E-mail?

      Gmail does use push, at least on Android, but not traditional IMAP push. On Android the push messages are sent through Google Play Services - which maintains a single active connection for all Google services (Hangouts, Gmail, Play Store updates, etc.). GCM messages, which many applications use for push messaging are also tunneled through this single Play Services connection.

      The idea behind the single connection is that it helps save battery, 1 connection waking the device rather than a connection per-app waking the device.

      Whether you can get Gmail to use push outside of an Android device I can't answer, I only use it for Play Store access really. I know about the above as I'm a developer and it's come up in several documents and/or been mentioned during Google IO sessions.

    5. Triggerfish

      Re: My 2 cents

      I have to agree, the outlook app worked great, whats that saying about if it aint broke?

    6. dan1980

      @dogged

      Er . . . no, that's not quite it.

      The author is listing, factually, the events that have occurred and the software changes that have resulted from them.

      So, while he may well not like the new client, it's not just some personal vindictiveness but the result of changes for the worse in the software - changes he has detail in the article. If you think that the removal of 'tasks' and the lack of a calendar sync option is not objectively a step backwards then perhaps you've never used these functions.

      When a normal, expected feature that works well and is commonly used gets axed, it's hard to put criticisms of that move down to personal dislike.

    7. big_D Silver badge

      I tried the new Outlook software, but it still holds the credentials in the cloud...

      To be honest, I never used the old Outlook.com app either, I just added my Hotmail account (it dates from the days before Micrsoft bought them) as a system account on my Galaxy...

    8. Cpt Blue Bear

      "This is what 'cloud-first' and 'mobile-first' amounts to."

      Once all the marketing BS and hype is hosed off, yes. Wasn't it obvious from the start?

  11. AMBxx Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Microsoft

    Same as on WP10. WP8 has great email. WP10 now so great.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The age old Microsoft dilemma where it clings on to the Windows OS yet Office makes a huge pile of money and profit. There has been investor moves to carve out this division (and rightly so) to maximise growth, increase revenue and improve product agility.

    These days people want cross platform and don't care what runs underneath so long as it gives them the features they want. If Microsoft don't wake up to this or they are going to implode under their own ham-fistedness. I suspect the problem lies within Microsoft and political division between the Windows and Office groups resulting in sabotage and infighting.

    Does Office need the R&D cost of Windows weighing it down ?

  13. Zippy's Sausage Factory
    Pint

    There used to be an 8-ball easter egg

    In Access '97 it was.

    One of the things it used to say was "Outlook not so good".

    Never was sure whether that was a value judgement or not.

    But then again this was the same version of Office that if you typed "I'd like to see Bill Gates dead" in Word, formatted it as UK English* and asked for an alternative from the thesaurus it said "I'll drink to that". I can imagine billg wasn't happy...

    * Or was is US English? This is 18 years ago and my memory is fuzzy.

  14. LDS Silver badge

    Nadella is building his praetorians squad to strenghten his position inside Microsoft. Putting someone in charge of Outlook - one of the application that really boosted MS in a field once dominated by Notes - from a little company who developed a crappy app (wasn't that the app that stored your mail password to check your inbox on your behalf?) IMHO there were better talents in Nokia) is really a strange move, but someone outside Microsoft can be more loyal that someone grown inside the company...

    It looks to me that inside MS thare are huge power battles ongoing, and the customers will be the victims.

  15. Dan 55 Silver badge

    real push email (you need to pay for that with Gmail)

    Beg to differ, if we're not talking about SMS push e-mail which is as rare as hen's teeth nowadays then IMAP IDLE is real push email, ActiveSync is a rather more chatty protocol. Gmail supports IMAP IDLE and Android clients like K9 and MailDroid do.

  16. jason 7 Silver badge

    I have to say...

    the previous Outlook.com Android app was superb. It worked really well and looked great in a nice clean simplistic fresh style. It had reached a mature usable format that most people liked.

    That apparently is a BAD thing (to hipsters maybe???).

    So we now have the new app that...well...doesn't work as well and looks a bit messy. My usage of my account on there has dropped. Notifications seem hit and miss too.

    They had a Stradivarius of an app and replaced it with a kazoo.

  17. Show Me the Money

    push email

    >It's a first-class consumer service, with real push email (you need to pay for that with Gmail)

    News to me. I thought I was getting push email through gmail...

  18. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    FAIL

    When was the last time

    That MS didn't fusck up an acquisition in one way or another? it sounds like for this one they spent 200m spondoolicks on something that was flashier but less competent than the thing it replaces.

  19. J J Carter Silver badge
    Windows

    Quality ranting

  20. theOtherJT

    Typical Microsoft

    I just don't get the impression that MS know what they're doing at the moment.

    Skype. RDP. Exchange - why are these all not glowing perfect examples of why WindowsPhone is better than any other mobile OS? There's just no excuse for that. It's Microsoft's platform. They're Microsoft's products. If they'd had any brains they'd have made sure that these things worked absolutely flawlessly before they released the last version of WinPho, but they didn't. I'm starting to wonder if they've forgotten how.

    If you can't get your own products working on your own platform, then why should anyone else bother?

  21. Rimmer100

    Contact woes

    I noticed that the Outlook.com app had been discontinued when I got a phone call from my Dad yesterday night and the phone number came up rather than a name. Sure enough, when I checked all Outlook.com contacts had vanished along with the calendars (as mentioned). I'd had the Outlook app for a while as the warnings from Outlook.com had persisted and was suitably unimpressed with it. No way to use Outlook.com aliases, you can't see if there are unread e-mails in any of the folders when you look at the folder list, focused inbox was annoying (I'll decide what's important thanks). Overall it was very poor. I enabled the contact sync which had been turned off (that is an option by the way) and waited for my contacts to appear. Some did. Some didn't. Maybe I was too impatient but eventually I gave up with the Outlook sync option and used the Exchange option from a different e-mail client (Enhanced E-mail - a bit old in the tooth but compatible with a mail folder widget which means I can see if an e-mail has been delivered to a separate folder, something I couldn't get any of the other mail clients to do). That sync'd my contacts and at least my main calendar is now in SPlanner. Before I could have Facebook, Birthdays, My wifes all showing easily, but I can only download the one calendar from Outlook.com using the Exchange option.

    The old Outlook.com app had it's problems but it was so much easier to use, straight forward and got the job done. The Outlook app is just pants! Hopefully public opinion will get some changes made (the original Hotmail app was pretty awful) but I do feel thoroughly shat on by Microsoft!

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: There used to be an 8-ball easter egg

      >"I'll drink to that"

      British English, the USians do not know how to drink the grown men's beverages ....

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: There used to be an 8-ball easter egg

        >>"I'll drink to that"

        >British English, the USians do not know how to drink the grown men's beverages ....

        I forgot the joke icon, making a reference to Bud & Miller (light) ... ;-)

    2. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: Typical Microsoft

      >If you can't get your own products working on your own platform, then why should anyone else bother?

      The whole point is that others are better than themselves at interop'ing with their OWN platform. Now, most of these players also support alternative, standards-based, platform independent solutions that work even better ... why, oh why are you still forcing yourself to gobble Redmond excrements ?

      I had a hotmail account some, what?, 15 years ago, dumped it when we switched to something else than MSN messenger, must have been Skype, iirc.(I know you did not need a hotmail address for msn msg back then, but it certainly looked like you did, iirc) Note that I still have my netscape.net account from the 90's with IMAP. Never beaten by hotmail capacity-wise, and used to have 5 times the inbox size and 3 times the max message size - I used to send MP3's to my mates in the 90's via email ... obviously to their ISP email address not webmail, because, for some retarded reason, they used ISP email (hooked to ISP) or hotmail with no IMAP, ridiculous inbox and max mail sizes ... then again, they were not techies so they at least had an excuse. Most ISP email addresses are dead now and they eventually all switched to gmail ... i still use my ancient netscape.net address.

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Microsoft never gives you anything to rave about. A best, it's "meh+".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Mushroom

        Actually it does. Get me or Trevor to start on Microsoft VDI licensing.

        1. 9Rune5
          Coat

          Veni, ViDI, vici?

          1. launcap Silver badge
            Coat

            > Veni, ViDI, vici?

            More like weenie, weedy and weaky..

    4. dogged

      Re: There used to be an 8-ball easter egg

      > But then again this was the same version of Office that if you typed "I'd like to see Bill Gates dead" in Word, formatted it as UK English* and asked for an alternative from the thesaurus it said "I'll drink to that".

      It's funny but alas the Easter Egg was a bit less self-referential. "I'd like to see $ANY_TEXT_STRING dead" resulted in "I'll drink to that".

    5. P. Lee Silver badge

      Does Office need the R&D cost of Windows weighing it down ?

      It's all about the upgrade cycle and differentiation. I don't think r&d costs for windows weighs much unless you think marketing is r&d.

      If office and visio and project were available on Linux / osx you'd probably see a drop off in windows revenue for no office revenue gain. If you need those apps, you pay the "line rental" cost of windows. That cost is there to make sure you don't also commit to another platform.

    6. trillyuk
      Unhappy

      Re: Typical Microsoft

      "I just don't get the impression that MS know what they're doing at the moment."

      Exactly my own sentiments. For many years I have with my own money purchased a Nokia Windows Phone as it was great for what I needed it for. yes, I was missing out on some apps the guys who had Android or iPhones but I considered I was using a tool that increased my productvity and I still believe to this day its the better operating systemm at least on Win Phone 8.1.

      Having read, seen, Microsofts approach to mobile this year, writing off billiions from the Nokia purchase, closing down mobile development centres the writing for me was on the wall and last month switched to an iPhone after my Windows phone died due to a hardware fault.

      I haven't looked back and my fixed Win Phone sits in the cupboard unused, the iPhone just works and I seem to be seeing more features coming through on apps like Onenote than I saw in the Windows version. Maybe in a couple of years I will be back on Win Phones once Micosoft have sorted themselves out but probably not. Would seem from this thread I am not alone.

      And don't get me started on Win 10 and tablet support, thats a fail, went back to Win 8.1 due to lack of virtual keyboard in browsers other than Edge.

    7. DanielN
      Thumb Down

      Cross platform, my ass.

      "These days people want cross platform and don't care what runs underneath so long as it gives them the features they want."

      ... when using a device as a commodity dumb pipe for text and humorous cat pictures.

      When they are trying to get two video cameras to sync, or run a high-end scanner, or make heavily formatted documents, or integrate data from three databases, or any other technically difficult task, they want a well-designed OS with a strong driver and software ecosystem.

      Microsoft seems to be optimizing to compete in the commodity dumb pipe market. It's a big market, but the margins are thin. High-end business and recreation software has better margins, and customers with no choice but to buy.

  22. Paul Shirley

    "with real push email (you need to pay for that with Gmail)"

    ?

    It's doing a pretty good impression of push mail for my gmail accounts in Thunderbird (and of course Android) and I've not paid anyone. The office Exchange server is far less cooperative.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Add this to what they tried recently with office364 1/2

    Hell, I don't even remember what it was called (Clutter, I looked it up) , but as a business email user, those 10-to-300 email messages per day of link-state changes, password expirations, tickets assigned to me, etc. that got stuffed into the new auto-created folder, along with the email message from Microsoft notifiying me of this clusterfuck (oh, the irony) along with the broken search function -- any message that had been Clutter-fucked, and messages that would have been Clutter-fucked were un-searchable for several days because, hell, I don't know, probably because the program manager assumed that no one would ever disable Clutter.

    Fuck, now my blood pressure's up again.

  24. Semaj

    Tip

    A useful tip for getting around the poor Android support is that you can add your outlook.com account as a bog standard exchange account (Settings>Accounts>Add Account>Exchange) and tell it to sync the calendar and mail directly. (Note, you may have to fiddle a bit with the security settings to get it working. I only had to set the security type to SSL/TLS but YMMV.)

    I personally prefer the stock android mail app but gmail should be able to read from those acocunts as well. The stock calendar app works too. Overall I'm actually happier with this setup because now I don't need the extra outlook.com app floating around when I used it, would have been nice if they hadn't broke the old one for those who liked it though.

    1. Test Man

      Re: Tip

      I did this last night and it asked me for a certificate file. What am I doing wrong?

      1. Semaj

        Re: Tip

        A far as I remember you can just leave that option set to "no certificate". I don't have any client certs set up for my accounts. You may want to experiment with manual setup vs just putting your email address in but then you'll probably have to google around for the ports and server addresses.

  25. Philip Storry

    Exchange tasks? Rich?

    "Business users don't get Tasks support, despite very rich Task support in Exchange"

    Very rich? Come off it. Exchange's Task support is about as rich as a second hand car dealer with a lot full of Volkswagens.

    A dedicated task service like Remember The Milk, Wunderlist or Todoist could be described as rich. Exchange's Tasks are best described as "you'll get a priority field, and you'll bloody well like it".

    OK, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration. But what do you actually get? Priority, Start Date, Due Date, Status and "% Complete". Because everyone here would be willing to be a tenner on ever having seen "% Complete" being used by a real-life user consistently...

    You can assign tasks to someone, which is nice. And you can set a reminder or set a task to repeat. And that's your lot.

    In task terms, that's pretty much the basics.

    What are we missing?

    No tagging. No assigning to projects (although you could use Outlook's woefully badly integrated Categorize feature, I suppose. If you're a masochist.) No location field, or goelocationary features. No time estimation. Minimal postpone features. No filtering of tasks by anything worth a damn except the date and priority. No daily digest delivered to your inbox. No subtasks or task hierarchy.

    Oh, and as we're talking about clients here - no browser integration at all. No, OWA doesn't count - I mean bookmarklets and browser add-ons that make your task list usable from any web page. The closest Exchange gets is if you use OneNote - a rather heavy sledgehammer to crack this nut.

    To be honest, I could say the same about the Exchange Calendar or other areas. Microsoft keep buying tools like Wunderlist and Sunrise, but if they attempt to bring them into a monolithic system like Exchange they're doomed to fail. They succeeded because they were focused on being excellent within their own domain, rather than merely another component in Outlook.

    They need to be running as little web services on top of Exchange, that can be accessed by https with a simple API, and that can therefore concentrate on having a couple of good clients and a decent service. Let the Outlook team figure out how to ruin the experience in Outlook, but at least you'll still have a decent underlying service and standalone client that does the job well...

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Exchange tasks? Rich? @Philip Storry

      I can't decide whether you are trolling, or whether you just haven't learned what the software can do.

      eg: "No filtering of tasks by anything worth a damn except the date and priority."

      This might be helpful:

      http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10-things/10-ways-to-get-the-most-out-of-outlook-categories/

      Some third party clients manage to support Categories just fine. This Android client even allows you to perform SQL queries using the Exchange categories.

      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.myklos.inote

      Remember The Milk, Wunderlist or Todoist only exist because Microsoft has forgotten what's in Exchange, and can't be bothered to look.

  26. Aoyagi Aichou
    Windows

    Productivity

    Wait, you expect added productivity from Microsoft, not just shiny toys? Where have you been for the last 5-6 years?

  27. Daz555

    New Outlook client will force me to sync contacts? Jesus. Goodbye from me then. Hotmail - it's been a ride but it's time for me to get off.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are they still shipping your password off to their US data centres?

    Tried it day one, then kept getting alerts about logins from the US. Turns out they ship the passwords for all the accounts you add to outlook off to the US so they can kindly read your email on your/NSA's behalf.

    They might have 'fixed' this now, but suspect not.

  29. Jayman2005

    Too much fat...

    It just seems that MS has a lot of fat to shed. It needs new blood in the ranks and not just at the top.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Accompli client is a crock of shit. It is less capable than the old Android in-box email client and it's only advantage is it doesn't require the whole device to be encrypted for a corporate account. The UI is pretty but the UX is painful and it is unreliable. Bugs don't get fixed and when new features turn up they're some marketing buzzword and not something users want.

    What gets worse though is the once awesome email client on Windows Phone (yeah, I did say that) has been neutered and turned into an Accompli-look-alike as well.

    And now this team are taking over Outlook. While it's not a great piece of software it at least is functional. Let's watch them strip out the useful capabilities and replace them with strong visual textures that are a delight to interact with.

    Sigh.

    1. theOtherJT

      This is what I'm talking about.

      What gets worse though is the once awesome email client on Windows Phone (yeah, I did say that) has been neutered and turned into an Accompli-look-alike as well.

      See, this is what I mean. There's no bloody excuse for this. It's just shoddy management being allowed to ruin things that worked in order to chase today's fad design language.

  31. G.Y.

    Touchdown

    The Android Touchdown client for Outlook get me out of this mess.

  32. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    It seems that Lookout

    is even more apt that it ever was when describing Outlook.

    Sad really but they seem to have monumentally fsck'd a very able bit of software.

    They really do risk becoming irelevant to the mobile world if they keep this up.

    What next? How about charging for Office 365 on Tablets even if you have a subscription? That ought bring in a few more Million$$$$$

    Keep Calm and Carry On Sataya. You are doing a grand job of pissing everyone off. We have long memories you know.

  33. oneeye

    You know,I think people are very interested in some serious competition to Android and IOS ,and earlier this year,it looked like MS might bring it. I was even considering switching to a Windows Mobile again. But MS just keeps shooting themselves in the foot,leg,and head. What morons! I Truely feel sorry for those still trying to support MS products. I'm afraid to even use some of the Android apps they offer.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Abandoning Outlook

    I had an almost-useful Outlook account that I used for sporadic purposes, but -- after a few weeks' absence -- MS locked it and insisted on a mobile number to restore access. This I absolutely refuse to provide. I simply do not care to give Microsoft (and its overlord security agencies) another vector to identify me. Dormant it shall remain.

    F***, as one might say, them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Abandoning Outlook

      As opposed to the mobile number you have given to Google (via android) or Apple (via iOS) already?

      Microsoft having your number as well makes absolutely zero difference to the ability of the security services to track you should they so choose...

  35. Gavin Burnett

    old vs new outlook android apps

    The old app was dog slow, but was stable and nice and configurable.

    The new app can hardly be configured at all, and crashes constantly when opening e-mails.

    You can get around the crashes on opening by re opening the app and trying to open the same e-mail again - you will get it to open on about the third attempt.

    I would suggest that everyone leaves a one star review on google play stating their displeasure!

  36. JimboSmith Silver badge

    So this intermingling of Gmail and Outlook contacts reminds me of WinPho and Facebook. When the windows phone was first released if you synchronized your Facebook account with your windows phone your contacts app was filled with your Facebook contacts. I attended a demo of the Windows Phone where this was pushed as a cool feature and something they thought was fairly unique proud of as a result. Think it used Facebook Connect to do this. So spotty teenager steps forward and says that he's done it and now wants to undo it as it's driving him mad. He had nearly 200 friends on Facebook none of whom had their contact details visible and therefore in the contact app he had nearly 200 empty entries. He also had a fair few of these people listed twice as a result, once with details once without.

    Asks how to delete the Facebook empty ones and is shown a method to do this which he dislikes. That apparently only hid them not deleted them (they turned up if you searched) so is given another suggestion, unfriend them on Facebook and then ask to be their friend again. This also appears to be as popular as a dose of the clap and the young gentleman suggests with a few four letter words interspersed that his new phone will be wiped and returned to the carrier.

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