Microsoft rethinks death sentence for Windows Mail and Calendar apps

Shifting those duties to Outlook set for next year – well, maybe

Microsoft intends to shut down its at-times-maligned Mail and Calendar apps, fold their capabilities into a new Outlook for Windows, and use the opportunity to – unsurprisingly – bring in more AI.

However, when this will happen is now in flux.

In a note earlier this month, Microsoft said Windows 11 devices shipped next year will include the new Outlook for Windows as the default mailbox app, which will include both mail and calendar tools. Thus, no need for the operating system's Mail and Calendar apps: just use the next Outlook instead.

"The Mail and Calendar applications will continue to be available via download in the Microsoft Store through the end of 2024," Redmond added. "On existing devices, users can switch to the new Outlook for Windows from a toggle in the Mail and Calendar applications."

However, despite some criticism of the apps from users over the years and a general indifference from Microsoft that seemingly includes no major updates since Windows 11 launched two years ago, there were some strong negative reactions to the above decision.

Taking another look

Given that, the Windows titan seems to be rethinking some of its plans, according to a note to customers shared by Michael Reinders, a systems engineer and Office 365 specialist with travel industry services company Trisept Solutions.

"We are reevaluating the timing and implementation of this change and will provide updated information shortly," the note read. "Thank you for your patience."

We are reevaluating the timing and implementation of this change

Why Microsoft decided to take another look at the plan and what that could entail is unclear. The Register has asked the IT goliath for further comment and will update the story if a response comes in.

In its note announcing the move away from the usual Mail and Calendar apps, Microsoft wrote that the "new Outlook for Windows is for everyone.

"Now everyone with Windows gets the best of Outlook built into Windows for free. No subscription needed. You will write better emails with advanced AI built into the new Outlook for Windows to help you write impactful, clearer, mistake-free messages."

Outlook for Windows will also remind users to follow up on those crucial email back-and-forths. Redmond also touted it as a single place for accessing all manner of inboxes on any Windows device, including those hosted by Yahoo and Google.

There's also greater security and organization, more productivity, and unified account management, according to Microsoft.

That said, user response was mixed and, as expected, spirited.

"It's kind of hilarious but also sad to see Microsoft developing web apps for Windows, but building quality native apps for Android, iOS and MacOS," one user wrote on Reddit. "I guess UWP [Universal Windows Platform] was Microsoft's last effort to take native-apps serious. From now on it's web apps."

The point here being that Mail and Calendar are native Windows applications, whereas the new Outlook for Windows is essentially a web app at its core, from what we can tell.

Another netizen took the decision to phase out Mail and Calendar as a loss of faith in the WinUI native toolkit.

"This is a shocking indictment on their own UI toolkit," they wrote. "If you can't port a UWP app to the native toolkit, it's basically an admission that nobody should ever build native windows apps. Not even Microsoft is using their own toolkit. What a revolting development."

One user argued that for security reasons, they didn't want an app like Mail in the cloud. That said, another user noted that web apps are the future of the industry.

"Native is going to become less and less prevalent," they said. "I hate front end dev, but let's face it, the web stack has become a ubiquitous standard for creating cross-platform user interfaces. You create it once and you have an app in the browser, mobile, and desktop. … It's here to stay and that's not a bad thing."

Give it a look

Microsoft is giving users a chance to take a look at this latest Outlook for Windows by sliding the "Try the new Outlook" toggle found in the upper-right corner of the Mail and Calendar or the classic Outlook for Windows apps. Users can switch back to their previous apps by sliding the toggle off.

Moving the Mail and Calendar capabilities into Outlook for Windows is part of Microsoft's larger "One Outlook" plan laid out in 2020 to create a single Outlook for PCs, Macs, and the web. In a blog post in April, Margie Clinton, group product manager for Outlook, wrote that Microsoft also was focusing on adding third-party apps to the mix.

"The initial release of this preview only supported first-party accounts from Microsoft, whether they be work, school, or personal," Clinton wrote. "But Outlook is for everyone, whatever accounts they use – just like on our mobile and Mac apps. … It's our intention that every person be able to access all of their emails – in one spot – on any Windows 10 or Windows 11 device." ®

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