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Microsoft acquires Acompli to expand Outlook mobile access

Microsoft acquired mobile email client startup Acompli as part of its commitment to cross-platform support for mobile email access, something that Outlook lacked.

Outlook mobile email access on Android and Apple devices could be easier thanks to Microsoft's acquisition of Acompli this week.

The mobile email client startup, based in San Francisco, was acquired by Microsoft for an undisclosed sum, although numerous published reports pegged the deal at $200 million. Acompli, Inc., provides free email client applications for Apple iOS and Google Android devices and supports numerous email platforms, including Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Google Apps, Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo, Outlook.com, Hotmail and Live. It also supports file sharing platforms Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

The applications utilize a "focused" inbox feature that allows email to be triaged so the most important email is surfaced automatically on a device. This comes not long after Microsoft introduced Clutter to similarly simplify Office 365 email.

Acompli also tightly integrates mobile email with calendars and provides easier attachment capabilities facilitating file access directly to file-sharing platforms.

Microsoft acquired Acompli to provide cross-platform email applications supporting a variety of email services, the company said in a blog post. This is important for enterprise end users who have iOS and Android devices but need Outlook mobile access, said Chris Hazelton, research director for enterprise mobility at 451 Research in New York.

"Microsoft has Outlook, but it's not really iOS- and-Android-first," Hazelton said. "It's really Windows-focused. [Acompli] means Microsoft is very operating-system agnostic when it comes to mobile."

Microsoft is investing in its cross-platform communication and collaboration support and knows how valuable email is in that equation, said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst with Constellation Research in Toronto.

"Email is still one of the most important business applications, so ensuring that Microsoft customers have a modern mobile user experience is critical," Lepofsky said.

Ideally, Microsoft will evolve Accompli to be more of a messaging hub, Lepofsky said.

Ensuring that Microsoft customers have a modern mobile user experience is critical
Alan Lepofskyanalyst, Constellation Research

Within the next year, Microsoft could combine features of Outlook Web Access, Skype, Yammer and Delve to create a new Web-based messaging platform, although that could be independent of the Accompli acquisition, Lepofsky said.

The market for mobile email containers is an area of potential expansion for IT vendors, with companies like Good Technology, Inc.'s Good for Enterprise, VMware's AirWatch Inbox and Symantec following its acquisition of NitroDesk as current options in the space, Hazelton said.

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendors have to build their own email clients because OS providers like Apple and Google won't let EMMs control the native email clients, Hazelton said.

"Everyone has tons of email and the amount of attachments and sensitive information going through email is greater than any other application out there, short of a Salesforce.com," Hazelton said. "This is a significant indicator of Microsoft's interest in retaining control of email [from] Exchange through to the endpoint device."

Acompli's team and products are now part of Microsoft's mobile productivity group. Acompli was founded only 18 months ago by former VMware executives Javier Soltero, J.J. Zhuang and Kevin Henrikson.

Acompli began discussions recently with Microsoft around integrating Office 365's capabilities with Acompli's product while maintaining email and file support for Apple, Google, Box and Dropbox, Soltero wrote in a blog post of his own. The companies later decided it was better to move forward as one.

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