Microsoft Releases A Hobbled Outlook iOS App That Pretty Much No One Will Use

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Outlook is now available for the iPhone and iPad. Kind of. Don’t expect full Outlook functionality. This isn’t a MS Office Outlook app; this is stripped down mail, calendar and contacts app much like the one found in Windows 8. It’s free to download to iOS devices right now. But, in typical Microsoft fashion, it’s not that simple.

Outlook Web App, the app’s oh-so-catchy name, requires a subscription to Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity suite. This is the same $100-a-year subscription needed to use Office on iOS, which seems to state that Microsoft doesn’t want anyone to use their apps. Because, well, if these apps were free, it would eliminate the MS Surface RT’s main selling point.

It’s sad because OWS seems like a quality application that brings Windows 8’s flat styling to iOS. This app also brings Exchange support to iOS in a native app that supports push notifications and remote date wipes.

The Outlook Web App seemingly provides much of Outlook.com’s functionality. It sports email, calendar, and contact support. There’s voice input, two-column view, and Bing Maps integration. The app looks and feels a lot like Windows 8’s version of the apps, likely making users of both platforms (like me) feel a bit more at home on a mobile device.

Of course this isn’t a full version of Outlook. Microsoft wouldn’t release that for the iPad or iPhone. This version is just a mail app so don’t expect to do much more than what’s available on Outlook.com.

Like I pointed out last month when Office hit the iPhone, Microsoft is walking a thin line with its iOS apps. On one hand the company is trying to take one of its core products to new platforms. But it cannot do so in a way that would potentially cannibalize its own fledgling platforms. After all, the only way to get the full power of Office on a tablet is to buy a Windows 8/RT device — like the MS Surface.

Microsoft is ignoring the masses and just preaching to the choir. By requiring a $100 a year subscription to Office 365, it kills any chance of Microsoft’s apps going viral and finding new fans. Right now the only paying Microsoft users can use Office for the iPhone or OWS for iOS. And that’s just a tiny percentage of the users on iOS.

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