The Outlook for Microsoft Outlook and the Evolution of Collaboration Software


Since the introduction of Microsoft Outlook – which first launched in 1997 as part of the Office 97 bundle and the preferred email client for Exchange 5.5 – it has been the application in which Microsoft has most wanted you to spend your time.

Email technology has been under the microscope for the past several years now. The introduction of more modern collaboration tools such as Google Workspaces, Slack, Yammer, Box, Workplace for Facebook, Jive, Zoom and many others make this a dynamic market.

Collaboration solutions eclipse email clients

Microsoft Teams is Microsoft’s collaboration solution. It is specific to Office 365 and embedded in all currently available 0365 subscriptions (including F1, F3, E1, E3 and E5), which means it is not a traditional on-premises software application and not available a la carte. It effectively reshuffles standalone services or Office 365 bundles into a single application. By collapsing a number of services that were previously made available as standalone services (SharePoint, Lync, Skype, Yammer, PBX, PSTN), Microsoft made Teams to become the dominant user interface, displacing the Outlook client with a “stickier” solution. 

At its Inspire conference this summer, Microsoft announced plans that demonstrate just how far it is willing to go to drive users from Outlook to Teams. Microsoft competes in today’s market based on three large cloud platforms: Microsoft 365, Azure and Dynamics 365. The Dynamics 365 model monetizes any user access to Dynamics 365 data with subscriptions that provide data access ranging from casual to comprehensive. Microsoft is planning to add casual Dynamics 365 data access to Teams at no cost, thus reducing current Dynamics 365 costs for lightweight licensing. 

This announcement reinforces the tie Microsoft is keen to establish between Teams and Dynamics 365 by eliminating the “licensing tax” that had previously held customers back from using the available integration. Additionally, it puts Microsoft on competitive footing with the customer relationship management solution made possible by Salesforce’s recent acquisition and integration of the Slack collaboration application.

Platforms that combine stand-alone services

Teams supports several Microsoft add-ons. It is rumored that it will redesign its diagramming and vector graphics application Visio to offer a lightweight version via Teams. Not only would this save the cost of traditional Visio Plan 1 and Plan 2 subscriptions, it would also save organizations any Software Assurance spend directed at on-premises Visio. This seems to be another way Microsoft is positioning Teams as the user interface that displaces Outlook.

Microsoft is continuing to add functionality to Teams to make it the natural landing zone for users when they log in into work. For example, Microsoft Viva, a separate Office 365 user subscription, delivers a virtual workspace within Teams intended to better connect traditional remote and recent office workers now working from home. Viva purportedly uses automation and artificial intelligence to monitor and aid Teams users with time management and can direct users to learning content to meet performance objectives. To ensure Teams is a primary landing zone for users, Microsoft is committed to opening Teams up to third-party integration across many disciplines and providers.

All these announcements clearly have implications for users who typically manage their day through their interaction with the Outlook email client and, by extension, with email in general.

Is Microsoft finessing a move to Teams?

While Microsoft has not specifically messaged this to the market, it is making choices with respect to its Exchange email application that could be construed as ranking Outlook lower on the priority list – or even on a path to ultimate retirement.

Take, for example, the already announced changes to the Exchange on-premises business model.  Beginning with Exchange 2022, users will no longer be able to purchase perpetual licenses. This means Microsoft could technically shut down an on-premises email system if it chooses to end the subscription program with which it’s planning to replace the current perpetual model. In addition, it will require newer access and storage protocols. 

Are these design and administrative changes a deliberate attempt to redirect users from Outlook to Teams?

Current Microsoft customers should evaluate their needs for communication and collaboration – and get a clear understanding of the rapidly changing marketplace. Technology companies – by their nature – are ushering in the next generation of tools to replace the old. Buyers must understand that the natural consequence of this trend can be an increased dependency. Moving to Microsoft Teams involves quite a bit of organizational change management and some careful planning to mitigate the new liabilities in your Microsoft relationship.

Working with a qualified advisor can help you understand how email and collaboration services are changing and how you will need to adapt to avoid unexpected surprises and costs. Contact us to find out how we can help.