The end of Outlook?

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The end of Outlook?

June 1, 2017

Our old frenemy Outlook might be ready for the golf course.

 

Every week it seems there is a new mobile email app showing up which gives people greater ability to attack their inbox. Let's face it, email is a battle. We send too many, we certainly receive too many, and while it feels like we're getting work done, most of the time, we're not. We're just slaving over managing all of it, using about 5% of our mental capacity.

 

Where is Outlook going wrong? Where is it falling behind? Machine learning and intelligent processing of mail. If I think about my inbox, and the thousands upon thousands of messages and contacts in its archive, I see missed opportunity. This is some personal "big data". Where are the algorithms to recognize my most important contacts? Intelligent grouping of messages by project? Prioritizing my inbox? This could easily be determined based on frequency of messaging, how often mail is marked important, how quickly I respond to them, even the content of the message could be analyzed. All of this could be analyzed to prioritize, present and file messages. Even more, why not read the messages and look for deadlines? It seems perfectly reasonable that software should be able to parse email for key points, such as "I need this by Tuesday" or "Please reply by _____". Like I said, missed opportunity.

 

While I have increasingly abandoned the practice of storing mail in folders and instead rely on search, many people still painstakingly maintain huge folder structures for their past email. Outlook has failed to recognize and better enable this practice. If the system was designed to be more intelligent, after a few items are manually filed, it should easily recognize the criteria for a given file, and take over that task. Better yet, flag it, like Google does. This way, you can associate an email with multiple topics, such as Project X and Team X. Even the brand new Outlook 2016 hasn't begun to assist with this. 

 

I'll pause here to say that the mobile Outlook app (which Microsoft purchased and rebranded), is fantastic. A step in the right direction, but still lacks intelligence. We need help with the overload! So much help!

 

Modern email products will win by layering on intelligent analysis on mailboxes. Some, like Spark, and Gmail, have made small steps in this direction. They can separate newsletters, purchases, and attempt to identify important messages, but there is more opportunity to tap into. Even so, these apps now mean that when I want to clear my inbox, I get up from my desk and use my phone. It's easily 3 times as fast to process a bloated mailbox. 

So continues the evolution away from sitting at a desk (good riddance!), to swiping away on a phone or tablet, to eventually just talking to a virtual personal assistant. I have great respect and trust for

 

, and I can only assume he knows what he's doing in neglecting the our dear old friend Outlook. Time will tell.

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