The limitations of Microsoft's new Outlook 2013 RT 8.1 application are largely outweighed by the chance it gives users to work in the familiar Outlook mail environment, some analysts say. On the other hand, the jury is still out on whether the missing features might deter some businesses from adopting RT tablets.
In announcing the Outlook 2013 2013 RT 8.1 Preview last week, Microsoft also acknowledged a rather long list of Outlook features that won't be available in the RT edition.
"But I don't think these missing features will be the straw that broke the camel's back," said Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, in an interview with TabletPCReview.
Outlook RT Is Better Than Built-In Mail Client
Until now, he noted, users of RT tablets have been limited to RT's built-in email client, which poses usability issues along the lines of those presented by Microsoft's "Modern" interface.
"The built-in client is well designed for managing your mail, but it shows a lot of information in a small space. A lot of people don't like it," according to Miller.
The built-in email client also raises an extra learning curve, which is particularly problematic to the many people who "live in Outlook" and who want to access their email from Microsoft Exchange, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, in another interview.
"The built-in email client might be OK if you're a Gmail or Outlook.com user, although it takes up the full screen. But it doesn't have Outlook's organizational structure of folders and subfolders," he told TabletPCReview.
Unlike the built-in client, Outlook 2013 RT can connect to Exchange Server 2007, 2010 or 2013. However, the Autodiscover service must be configured, and Outlook RT does not support certain Exchange features. These include Online Archive or Personal Archive mailboxes; site mailboxes; Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policy tips; and applying Messaging Records Management (MRM) retention policies. Also, you can't set Information Rights Management (IRM) on new email messages, and you can't add a fax account.
Yet many of the features missing from Outlook RT are ones that would be difficult to use on a tablet, anyway, Enderle contended. "For instance, you wouldn't want to access your legacy mail from an archive, because there isn't that much extra memory on a tablet," he illustrated.
Manageability Could Stand Improvement
As with other Office RT applications, Outlook RT doesn't integrate with Lync, and it doesn't let you run macros, add-ins, or custom programs created by an organization or third-party developers. In addition, Office RT doesn't integrate with SharePoint.
Also as with other Office RT applications, Outlook RT can't be configured using Group Policy.
"With Outlook, however, a lot of the manageability is on the Exchange side. Also, there is some Group Policy support in RT, but at a high level," Enderle observed.
Miller, though, suggested that, at this point, the missing features in Outlook, and other aspects of manageability, might have an impact on acceptance of RT tablets by some businesses.
"When the iPad originally came out, its manageability was horrible," the analyst recalled. "But since then, the iPad's manageability has improved a lot, both through built-in and third-party stuff. So right now, when faced with a choice, some businesses might say, 'Well, let's just go with the iPad.'"
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