Microsoft is buying the mobile productivity reputation it seemed disinclined to build for itself for so many years, and the latest addition to the roster is Sunrise, the calendar app that managed to raise $8.2 million in venture funding and achieved rave reviews on the many platforms where it appeared, including the iPhone, iPad, Android hardware, the Mac and the web. TechCrunch first reported that Sunrise was being acquired for $100 million or more last week, and now Microsoft has confirmed that the deal went down in a video posted to YouTube (now made private).
Sunrise began as a newsletter that provided calendar info via email, but then quickly switched gears as a mobile-first alternative to the built-in calendar apps offered by Apple, with a focus on optimizing the experience for small-screened devices. It incorporated weather and offered RSVPs without leaving the app, along with clever UX tweaks like a two-week synopsis that expands when touched to reveal the whole month, making the most of the available real estate depending on how a user’s interaction is signalling their particular needs at any given moment.
Microsoft appears to recognize the value in trusting mobile companies to provide the best mobile experiences in areas where they once led: Redmond acquired Accompli late last year, a celebrated mobile email client, and quickly turned it into Outlook for iOS and Android, a version of its mail client that is mobile-first, taking the name of the desktop dinosaur that made Microsoft a household standard in productivity apps but discarding pretty much everything else from that legacy software in favor of a streamlined, smartphone-optimized experience.
Based on Outlook’s example, it’s exciting to think of what Microsoft might do in terms of taking the strong foundation of Sunrise and turning it quickly into one of the new core components of Microsoft’s growing mobile productivity empire. For a company that has traditionally been criticized for being slow-moving, Accompli and now Sunrise offer a vision of the future that suggests true vitality, if not outright innovation.