Monday, February 27, 2006

(Not) waiting for Outlook 12

I'm not a beta tester. Unlike the days when the InfoWorld Test Center paid my salary, my current workload just doesn't allow time for it. But my rants against Microsoft Outlook finally attracted a response from Microsoft, and it's all centered around Outlook 12.

The email came from Cameron Stillion, and with his permission, I hereby reprint it in its entirety:


I was recently forwarded a link to your blog. Overall, I'd say you're spot-on, with a slightly sharp edge toward Redmond... but that's not a huge surprise. You do seem to have some up-to-date information on Windows plans, especially Vista - but I'm surprised that you aren't more tuned into the Outlook support for iCal that is already in Beta as we speak. Are you on the Office 12 beta? Huge improvements in iCal parsing, support for subscriptions via webcal://, and even publishing using iCalendar. I'm only saying this because I'm the dev lead over these features and built many of them with my own hands. Call it personal pride in one's workmanship. :)

As for Vista and their plans? You'd like to think we're all one big happy family up here - but the fact of the matter is that it is just as difficult to get different vendors to behave nicely together as it is to get disparate product groups to agree on market focus, interoperability, and a cohesive grand unified user story.

A little good news, a little bad news. Isn't that life in a nutshell?

Cameron Stillion
Microsoft Office
Outlook Development

Thanks, Cameron, for responding to my interoperability concerns on behalf of the Outlook team, at long last. Again, I've no intention of trying Outlook 12 beta for the reasons I gave above. The solution to this problem cannot merely be to get everyone to upgrade to Outlook 12. I would, of course, welcome reports from independent readers of Calendar Swamp. Does the Outlook 12 beta solve your Outlook calendar interoperability problems?

My hunch is that Outlook is getting pretty good at subscribing to iCal-based calendars, but probably still has trouble when those calendars try to subscribe to it. It sounds like some progress is happening even here, however.

As for Cameron's comments about the Vista team and the Outlook team not being on the same page, I think that speaks for itself.

I encourage Cameron, or other members of the Outlook team, to start blogging so Outlook customers can have a broader dialog with the company about calendar interoperability. I also hope that dialog includes the interoperability needs of gazillions of Outlook users who don't plan on upgrading to Outlook 12 for a long time to come, for a variety of reasons, including the cost and complexity of upgrading.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Since (I assume) a lot of import/export function is implemented via DLLs - why can't we get the DLLs as a plug-in for Outlook 2003?

As for publishing with iCalendar - I hope they've implemented a way to publish a list of events in a way that (multiple files, maybe?) that lets users click on individual events to add them to their personal calendars. In our organization, there's a published list of all the state-wide meetings; but no one wants _all_ of them on their calendar, just some of them.

By the way - great blog, I love the "draining the swamp" metaphor.