Why I’ve Switched Back to Mail on iPad

After reading countless articles and looking for a better way to consume email on the iPad, I decided on Accompli, which ultimately became Outlook post Microsoft acquisition. I enjoyed Outlook’s speed, the swiping features and a few other things. After using it for about 2 years on two different iPads, I’ve done something that’s not very technorati acceptable: I’ve returned to Apple Mail.

You may ask why?

There are some key Apple Mail features often overlooked by App reviewers. Conversely, Apple has done things to improve Mail’s interface and functionality. For example, implementing swipes (made famous by the now defunct Mailbox App) has made Mail a more efficient tool. With a bit of tweaking, you make find Mail a better choice than the third party mail clients for iOS.

The features I’ve missed since moving away from Apple Mail:

  • Auto Outgoing Mail Account: I have a 11 email accounts on my iPad. Nothing is more annoying (read: embarrassing) than sending an email from the wrong business account. Apple Mail’s ability to recall the account you normally use to send mail to a specific recipient makes it idiot-proof. Strangely, I haven’t found another client that does this. For this reason alone, I prefer Apple Mail, but there’s more.
  • Portrait Mode: Mail’s portrait mode is simple and beautiful. Looking at an email in full-screen portrait mode is a joy. Pinch and zoom, just like iPad always promised. The Inbox slider elegantly slides away and doesn’t take up valuable portrait-screen real-estate. For some annoying reason, Microsoft doesn’t allow this in Outlook. No pinch and zoom in portrait mode and no full-screen email. Actually, Outlook will show you an email in full screen, but only in an email thread! If you want to see a full-screen email, have a recipient send another email, click the little dots within the thread and it works. Lame. After sending Microsoft  countless feedback about this, I’ve given up.
  • Creating Calendar Events: I use Fantastical as my main calendar App (and you should, too–it’s awesome). Fantastical uses iOS calendar services to display events. Apple Mail does a great job of detecting times, places, people and simply holding “10AM” in an email gives me the option to add the event. This is time saving and elegant. Outlook’s integrated calendaring is great if you live in one App, but I don’t live in one App.
  • Click-a-Link Compatibility: when you click a link in some other App, it always defaults to Apple Mail. Consider it a limitation in iOS, but I’m tired of fighting the annoyance with copy/paste. Click and go is a lot faster.
  • Loading Images: I don’t want images to load when I open an email. I’ve found one of the easiest ways to curtail spam is to load images only when I allow it. Why is this? Most spammers include a single pixel image in HTML email that signals to their servers, “example@xyzmailservice.com opened their mail!” Once that happens, you’re on their list. I wish Apple would move the load images link to the top of the email window from the bottom, but it’s an annoyance I’ve decided to accept for now.
  • Notification Control: In Notification settings in iOS you can set specific notifications by email account. If you get unimportant mailing list mail in one email account, simply turn off the notifications for that account. Whats more, you can alleviate the badge count by mail account on the App’s badge. This way, when you look at the badge count, you can see the count of new mail you care about.
  • VIP: this is one of those silly features that you miss. When you get it back, you think, “wow, I should really use this.” If I’m working clients and don’t want to miss their email whilst sifting through hundreds of unread email, I label them as VIP. Tap on the little star in the Inbox drawer and boom–all your currently important mail is there. Pro-Tip: tap the little “i” to see and edit your VIP list. Pretty nice.

Outlook for iOS is a great App. There is a lot to like about it. Yet, after fighting it for so long, I’ve happily reverted back to Apple Mail. I’ve tweaked the swipe settings (swipe left  to delete, etc), the archive/delete default settings with Gmail accounts (one account defaults to archive, one to trash) and limited the inbox previews to 1 line for more visible mail on the inbox (you can reduce to none). I’ve read complaints regarding speed, yet I’miPad_Mail not experiencing that with iPad Air 2. Perhaps the hardware has caught up to the code in this case? I find Mail to be very responsive. I’ve read that search is slow and even “useless” with Mail, but in my experience it seems competent searching 11 email boxes simultaneously. I particularly like Spotlight’s ability to search by person and not necessarily the email account.

On iPhone, I use Spark and recommend you take a look at that. If they make an iPad version, I’ll likely switch to that. To me, the Spark guys have really re-thought the email client. On iPad, however, there’s nothing better than Apple’s Mail client. You may need to tweak it and massage it for your preferences, but once you do, it’s quite rewarding to use.

Microsoft Surface Ad, um, Surfaces.

This commercial sort of reminds me of Tic-Tacs and Mentos.

I’d like to know who at Microsoft approved this spot and what the pitch was from the agency.  Let me take a stab at it (in smooth-talking ad-guy voice), “We want to reach a young crowd, exemplifying fun and highlighting a key feature that makes the Surface different from the competition.”  What they’ve made is a scary Glee-style embarrassment.  Not even RIM would approve a spot this silly.  Hey guys, you’re selling consumer electronics, not candy, snack food or other sundries…remember?


Microsoft’s CADD is Not Cool

A lot is being said about Microsoft’s lack of focus recently.  John C. Dvorak claims that Microsoft suffers from “CADD: Corporate Attention Deficit Disorder” (Marketwatch.com, July 27, 2009).  I have to agree wholeheartedly, yet I agree it’s more than that.

It seems to me that somewhere around Windows 3.1, Microsoft became star-struck.  They were the darling of Wall Street, with stock and earnings rising and rising on an amazing growth trajectory.  Suddenly, Microsoft’s operating system was touting as amazingly advanced and changing the business desktop, as Apple Macintosh fans snickered with their fancy graphical user interfaces.

With great fanfare, Microsoft launched Windows95, hired The Rolling Stones and received unbelievable press coverage.  The pundits exclaimed Windows95 to be a huge breakthrough, while journalists wrote in nauseam, “just like a Mac.”  Microsoft’s trajectory climbed at even a higher pace.  Large  corporate campuses in Redmond and Silicon Valley were added to house all the people needed to handle growth. Geeks became cool and they felt like they were like rock stars.

And the company grew and grew…

Bill Gates was a shrewd negotiator, even at 19 years old.  His game was poker and he used his brilliance to adapt the ideals of poker to the bargaining table.  This is why Microsoft landed that first huge deal with IBM.  Microsoft had dogged determination to be the operating system of choice for the fledging computer industry.  There was a real spirit at Microsoft–that of a forward thinking, dynamic company. In 1984, when the Macintosh was introduced, they got right behind it.  Macs were on many desktops within Microsoft and they wrote some really great software.  Microsoft Excel was first introduced on Mac, while Word really gained major acceptance on Mac.  Macs were cool and Bill was enamored.

Windows95 launched and became wildly successful.  Revenues and earnings shot through the roof, Bill became the richest man in the world and Microsoft gained a war chest of cash like no other.  Microsoft, with it’s college-campus-like atmosphere and heretofore witnessed employee perks, was fat and happy.

The Internet flashed onto the scene and Netscape suddenly appeared.  While Microsoft yawned, Netscape files for one of the most successful IPOs in history.  Netscape made a Web browser, yet had no real business model, but it’s really a cool company.  People bank on Netscape’s unknown future, just like they did with Microsoft, albeit more risky.

Asleep at the wheel, the noise about Netscape and other fledgling Internet companies began to wake the sleeping giant.  Microsoft threw together Internet Explorer, which became the standard on Windows98.  Not long after that, Microsoft decided it should own the internet and began to develop services and languages to run its way, instead of using open standards.

Fast forward to today.  Open standards are just that, “standard.” Microsoft’s arrogance has finally met its match with a community resistance that has rejected their imperious attempts.

This and their still not cool.

This quick background story is a true example of Microsoft history, which could be framed in a variety of situations in the company’s history.  Over and over, Microsoft jumps into  whatever is trendy; after all, it has billions of dollars in the bank, why not hedge bets?  Online services, online media, search engines (galore), games, toys, publishing, music players, online music and more.  Sony is cool and built a revolutionary game console, so Microsoft jumps into the fray, losing money on each device it ships.  Apple changes the world with iPod, perhaps the coolest device to ever be introduced, so Microsoft counters with Zune, albeit years later.  Apple’s iTunes Store takes the world by storm.  iTunes does little for Apple’s profits, but sells iPods. Microsoft, who already spent millions promoting its Windows Media DRM “Plays for Sure” system, decides to come up with the Zune Store, entirely incompatible with the “Plays for Sure” standard it conned its vendors into the year before.

Not cool.

So think about this: name 5 products that Microsoft currently markets.  What did you come up with?  Let’s take a guess: 1) Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), 2) Windows, 3) XBox, 4) Internet Exploer, 5) Bing.  Right?  If you think of any others, leave it in the comments.  The only reason Bing is on the list is probably because you’ve been hit with its $30-million ad campaign.  Of the five answers above, or the five answers you arrived at, how much money is spent marking the first 3 on your list?  Probably very little compared to the stuff not on your list, sans #5’s $30-million dollar campaign currently in effect.

Shouldn’t Microsoft be spending more money on its next generation products that enrich its core businesses?

Microsoft is a company that’s truly lost its way.  However, unlike Sony, which was cool and not only lost its way, but lost its mojo, Microsoft keeps grasping for the cool and trendy, but never really had the mojo to begin with.  Microsoft is akin to a celebrity who had their place in the spotlight, continues to act like a snobby celebrity, while desperately grasping for attention.  Fiona Apple comes to mind as a prime example, no pun intended.

Even the culture at Microsoft’s campuses reflect this, especially Redmond. Employees there are possibly the most snobbish, arrogant people on the planet.  If you need proof, dine with some of them at a local restaurant sometime or interview a local restaurant worker.  Most of them feel like they are the cats meow and look down upon those who use iPods, even within their own circles.

The solution for Microsoft is simple, really.  The company needs to start shedding programs and divisions that do not work, stop trying to chase after companies like Google and Apple and come up with a cohesive global plan for software and services that are interoperable–with both open standards and its own.  Microsoft needs a strong leader with less competitive ego for wanting to beat everyone else at their own game and focus on Microsoft’s game.  Steve Ballmer is not that guy.  He’s a sales guy, a cheerleader and staunchly competitive.  Unfortunately, his focus is not clear and either is the company’s.  Their plans are fragmented little businesses that don’t even communicate with each other.  Sort of like Sony.

Sony builds computers and is competitive in the space.  Sony also has a software division that sells a video editing title called Vegas.  This group has been seen at various trade shows demonstrating their software on Dell computers.  That would be like the head of Ford showing up to a NASCAR race driving a Toyota.  Unreal.

Microsoft is heading down the path to be the next Sony, but cannot fall back on its cool factor as Sony has ridden so long upon.  While Microsoft keeps its vendetta against Apple going, other focused companies are truly innovating in their respective space–like Oracle and IBM.  Microsoft continues to spend millions on a marketing campaign that may help Dell, Sony and HP sell more laptops, yet does little for Microsoft’s image, all while validating Apple as a cooler, premium brand.  Why is Microsoft so focused on battling Apple publicly?  What are they afraid of? Apple has less than 10% of the operating system installed base world-wide, so why fight them?

Perhaps there’s more to this picture, but the author feels this is all about ego. As if to say, “damn you, Apple, how dare you make fun of us!” and combat that with a multimillion ad campaign.  All the while, Apple has dominated the music player industry and is quickly gaining on the smart-phone business, the latter of which Microsoft was a one-time market leader.  Blackberry took this market over, yet strangely it wasn’t until Apple got involved that Microsoft started to fight for market share.

As long as Ballmer is at the top, his ego and Microsoft’s CADD will persist. Perhaps the shareholders should wake up, realize Microsoft is not cool and force change upon the company’s management before it’s too late.  When Windows, which has already lost its luster, and Office become less and less relevant, so will Microsoft itself and that’s really not cool.

Microsoft’s $300-million Campaign Takes Flight

Commercial number 2 is released.  It’s really more like an info-mercial, as it’s 4-minutes long. 

I can sum this up really quickly for you: it’s an ad about nothing.

Microsoft sent out a release stating the first ad (see here) was just to get the attention of everyone.  The ads that follow will certainly be more relevant and we’ll all understand the campaign as it rolls out.  My take on this new spot, and from what comments I’ve seen on the Interwebs, the consensus is, “huh?” Continue reading “Microsoft’s $300-million Campaign Takes Flight”

Microsoft Says it Will Spend All its Money Anyway

It’s snowing in California? Ballmer says MSFT is going to spend $50 billion one way or the other. Yahoo is not a strategy. Carl Icahn worried a deal will never happen. Vista user account control are confusing says MSFT exec. XP SP3 corrupting the registry says Symantec. HP is now taking over the server business from IBM and Dell. RedHat software is greener. So what? Google slaps Microsoft. I’m just joking when I say the oceans are being carbonated by the CO2 in the air. I suspect the iPhone will have GPS built-in or have a bluetooth gizmo nearby.




Click to listen: [audio:http://m.podshow.com/media/12115/episodes/113484/tech5-113484-05-23-2008.mp3]

Microsoft Needs to Borrow to Acquire Yahoo!

Microsoft: Loan required for acquisition of Yahoo
Could this be the beginning of the end for Microsoft?  Getting too big for their britches?  Microsoft has been notoriously debt free, with tons of cash in the bank.  I know it would be stupid to use available cash for this acquisition, but maybe Microsoft needs to take a step back and say, “what are we really buying here?”  

Is dominating the popular kid in class (Google) so important to Microsoft that they are willing to acquire a troubled company, when they don’t even have their own house in order?  Why would a software company want to morph into an advertising business?  

Microsoft needs to focus on their own business–get their house in order–before any major acquisitions.  Ballmer is so focused on domination he can’t see the impending disaster that is Microsoft about 5 years from now.