I’m glad I don’t work at Microsoft. The company is facing all sorts of harrowing, do-or-die decisions as it attempts to transition successfully into the post-PC era.
But here’s one decision I think the company should make post haste: Release a version of Outlook for Windows RT. (ZDNet reports that Microsoft is testing an Outlook client for Windows RT, but there’s no guarantee the software will be released.)
Microsoft’s Surface with Windows RT tablet comes preinstalled with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT, which includes full-featured versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet does not come with Outlook, and it’s not available on other Windows RT devices. Instead, Surface RT tablets come with separate Microsoft apps for email, calendar and contacts that aren’t nearly as robust as Outlook.
However, if you buy a more expensive Surface with Windows 8 Pro tablet you can purchase and install a version of Office that includes Outlook. (Surface RT tablets cost $499 and up; Surface Pro tablets start at $899).
Microsoft is clearly targeting consumers with the Surface RT tablet and businesses with the full Windows 8-based Surface Pro tablet. But there’s a problem with this strategy: Microsoft is trying to separate the demographics at a time when the line between them has never been blurrier.
We live in a BYOD era. Business people bring their favorite consumer devices to work. Consumers do business at home. By not making Outlook available on Windows RT, Microsoft is severely limiting the appeal of what could otherwise be a terrific Surface tablet for BYODers.
Microsoft wants consumers to buy a Surface Pro tablet instead, which, frankly, makes the company look a bit greedy and out of touch.
I think offering Outlook on Windows RT, either as an optional purchase or as a free install, is a no-brainer. It would enable consumers and business people—rather than Microsoft—to decide which tablet best suits their needs.
Without Outlook, you might be wondering why any business person would even consider a Surface RT tablet. Here’s why: Compared to the Surface Pro, which becomes available Feb. 9, Surface RT tablets have longer battery life; they’re less expensive; they’re thinner; and they weigh less. Those are extremely attractive attributes to mobile professionals.
I own a Surface RT tablet, and it’s by far the best tablet I’ve used for work, thanks to the built-in Office applications. Given the low number of high-quality, third-party apps available for Windows RT, adding Outlook to the tablet makes even more sense.
What do you think? Would you be more interested in buying a Windows RT tablet if it came with Outlook?
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.