Email Has Come a Long Way, Baby

It’s amazing to think just how far email has come since Ray Tomlinson hit the send button on the first network email on behalf of MIT in 1971.  Over the next two-and-a-half decades, it evolved to become a form of communication used by millions of users, surpassing snail mail and the fax as the business standard for communication.

Despite the growing use of social media, email remains the most popular form of Internet communication. As email has evolved, so, too, have the expectations for its use. Today, businesses expect email to be available and reliable at all times. And they expect it to deliver top-notch productivity. In short, email can’t afford just to be good; it needs to be great.

The new Office delivers just that. Whether you’re an end user or an IT administrator, whether you prefer your email in the cloud or on-premise, email just took a major step forward with the next version of Office 365.

Introducing the New Outlook
The new Outlook provides anywhere access to email with the same user interface (UI) and functionality users know and love. Here are some of the top features:

  • Windows 8 style UI—Access a clean, modern, intuitive user interface that’s optimized to work with premium screen sizes and ensures an immersive, consistent experience across a variety of devices.
  • Outlook Apps—Leverage the new extensibility model of Office by using third-party web apps right from within Outlook and Outlook Web App.

  • Improved management—Quickly compose and send messages without popping out a window with the new “inline compose” feature. Discover if an email you just composed looks like it was intended to include an attachment with the “forgotten attachment detector.”

  • Better accessibility in Office Web App—Take advantage of improved support for screen readers, for high contrast needs, keyboard-only navigation needs, etc.Improved social networking – With the improved Social Connector, users can get the very latest updates automatically from people in the social networks you rely on most—such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Offline support in Outlook Web App—Use Outlook Web App in the browser even if there is no network connectivity. The work you do while disconnected is automatically synchronized the next time connectivity is restored.

Introducing the New Exchange
Gartner has called the new Exchange “a bridge to the Microsoft cloud” Indeed, whether they’re using Exchange Online or the desktop version, the newest Exchange enables IT administrators to increase user productivity and keep their organizations safe, while maintaining the control they need. Among the improvements:

  • Increased flexibility—Move to the cloud on your terms with flexible migration options, including Exchange hybrid deployment.
  • Improved protection of sensitive informationProtect business communications and sensitive information as you meet internal and regulatory compliance requirements. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) features identify, monitor, and protect sensitive data through deep content analysis, and PolicyTips in Outlook informs users about policy violations before sensitive data is sent.

  • Easier regulatory compliance—Use the new eDiscovery Center to identify, hold, and analyze your organization’s data from Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync. The data always remains in place, so you never have to manage a separate store of data.

The New Outlook and Exchange: In A Different League
If the new Office 365 were a baseball player, it would be a home run hitter. There are numerous ways in which the new Outlook and Exchange go beyond Google Apps and Gmail. As Samara Lynn of PC Magazine, put it: “To suggest that Office 365 is an answer to Google Apps is to imply that Google’s services are somehow in a league with Office 365. …Google Apps, while very useful in a stripped-down way, simply can’t deliver the very granular administration side that Office 365 provides.”

From an IT perspective, the new Exchange is miles ahead of Gmail, especially when it comes to complying with government regulations for preserving, searching, and retrieving company information. Archiving has been made easier with a specialized “In-Place Archive” that appears alongside the primary mailbox folders in Outlook or Outlook Web App, giving users direct access to archived email in the same way as non-archived email. The new Exchange also includes several eDiscovery tools to make it easier to find information. For example, “In-Place Hold” enables the preservation of a user’s edited and deleted mailbox items from both their primary mailbox and In-Place Archive for a specific time period. And eDiscovery can work across multiple primary mailboxes to search for email, attachments, calendar appointments, tasks and contacts. And it can search for items simultaneously across Exchange, Lync, and SharePoint.

By contrast, Google Apps requires add-on products such as Vault and until next year, Postini. While both of these products come at an extra cost, archiving isn’t as easy and eDiscovery isn’t as comprehensive. For example, there’s no In-Place Archive. And Vault eDiscovery searches are restricted to email and on-the-record IM chats. The new Exchange also provides superior security features such as Policy Tips, and sophisticated data loss prevention features.

Google Apps also has limited offline functionality. And compared to the new Outlook, which can integrate contact information from Facebook and LinkedIn, Google Apps’ social integration is restricted to Google+. As Doug Miller wrote for The New Information Economy: “The Office 365 system has a rich user interface that works in both Outlook and on the web. Calendaring is more robust in my opinion. There is no cross-integration with consumer products. It is all pro … I am a committed Outlook user and in the end Office 365 just works better (than Gmail…With all of the backend Exchange functionality, it feels like a real enterprise solution – because it is a real enterprise solution.

Likewise, many users prefer the email capabilities of Office 365. Redmond Windows Insider columnist Greg Shields tried Google Apps, but eventually moved his company to Office 365. “Office 365 has been a refreshing change over Google Apps,” he told Redmond Magazine. Having moved from Google Apps for Business to Office 365, we love the familiar Exchange interface and really enjoy the full-fidelity features of Outlook and Lync—which we didn’t have before.”

Rishi Khanna also switched to Office 365 after using Google Apps. “We felt the Google Web interface wasn’t conducive to a business environment,” he told Redmond Magazine. “Having come from using Microsoft Exchange for 10 years and being very comfortable with Outlook, it was a no-brainer… Microsoft does a great job of delivering a package of tools that companies can use for e-mail, word processing, Web meetings, calendars, document management and other unified services. The Google product, even though it came to market in 2006, has been bare bones in most of its features for the longest time. It still is not where we want it to be.”

We’ve Come A Long Way
It’s incredible to think about the progress we’ve made with email since Tomlinson sent the first email from one computer to himself at another. To quote Loretta Lynn, we’ve come a long way, baby.

Indeed, the new Outlook and Exchange deliver the sophisticated productivity today’s business users expect. Please check out the Outlook and Exchange in the Office 365 preview and tell us what you think.

Comments (33)

  1. Grant Ecker says:

    Great article, what Microsoft has accomplished with email in the cloud is awesome.. I love the integration with SharePoint/SkyDive and the offline in browser capability is incredible

  2. Derik says:

    "Email has come a long way, baby"…More like "maybe"…It is nice to see that MS has, once again, completely re-designed their user interface, drawing further confusion to their users, which is something MS likes to say Google does all the time…hmm. Also, way to adopt the hugely unpopular Windows 8 style. I guess if you are going to redesign something, might as well change it to something nobody likes in the first place. Inline compose? Attachment reminders? Offline access? Wow, you have come a long way! You FINALLY caught up to what Google Apps has had for a long time; way to "innovate"! Oh, wait, isn't your consumer product? Oh, so these capabilities are not yet available to to your enterprise customers huh? Too bad; guess you want to "expirement" with the consumers first huh? I thought MS "would never do that"?

    As for the "New Exchange" and Office 365 archiving; don't forget, these are "add-on apotions" that need to be installed, configured and licensed for. Which Office 365 plan included archiving? I cannot keep up.

    You are right though, Email has come a long way, but it appears MS is just now figuring out how far it really has come…

  3. Mark says:

    When are Exchange and Outlook 2013 going to come out of "preview" and get rolled out to all existing 365 users? Mark

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