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New Outlook features appeal to users on the go

At Ignite, Microsoft announced some improvements to its Office app and Outlook for iOS and Android. Learn about how it benefits both IT and end users.

Microsoft released a variety of productivity improvements for Outlook in iOS and Google Android OS to enhance end-user experience on the go.

The new Outlook features for iOS and Android announced here at Ignite, Microsoft's annual user conference, include calendar features such as Meeting Insights and Up Next. These features give users more information about their schedules, such as estimated travel time and conversations and files related to the meeting at hand. Microsoft will make these features available by the end of 2019.

A feature called Play My Emails reads emails aloud with the Cortana digital voice assistant. Users can reply with voice commands as well, which is available Nov. 4.

Competing with Google

These changes to Outlook suggest that Microsoft is competing directly with Google G Suite, said Mark Bowker, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.

"Over the last couple of years, Google has made some strides in the market with G Suite," he said. "Microsoft just came out of the box and said, 'We can do that, too.' They're saying, 'We can address the needs of today's workforce with the existing investment you have with Outlook.'"

Google has traditionally focused on the consumer market. In the last few years, however, Google has made some inroads to the enterprise market with features such as Google Voice for G Suite and the ability to distribute storage globally in G Suite. In October, Google hired a former Microsoft executive as the vice president of G Suite to further compete with Microsoft.

Mark BowkerMark Bowker

Microsoft remains a leader in the enterprise productivity market, however. In April, Office 365 commercial reached 180 million users, according to the company.

"Organizations that have invested in Outlook have had it in the company for decades," Bowker said. "Google can innovate and be attractive to the consumer market. But if you've invested in Outlook, it's been a great communication tool. ... Now Microsoft has taken that a step further."

Features for on-the-go employees

Willem BagchusWillem Bagchus

The focus on mobile end users is especially appealing to organizations with employees that travel, said an end-user training specialist for a city government organization, who requested anonymity for privacy reasons.

"Our employees travel between departments constantly," he said. "They're getting hammered with important emails all day long while they're in the car, and they want to have that option."

These improvements benefit both IT administrators and end users, said Willem Bagchus, messaging and collaboration specialist at United Bank, based in Parkersburg, W.Va.

Thanks to the cloud, a lot of these improvements are on the back end, and they're just delivered through new versions and updates.
Willem BagchusMessaging and collaboration specialist, United Bank

"Thanks to the cloud, a lot of these improvements are on the back end, and they're just delivered through new versions and updates," he said. "So, what you're doing is delivering better user experience as a result of that."

Another improvement to Outlook for mobile devices is a new mobile app that combines Word, Excel and PowerPoint into a single interface. Users can perform tasks such as converting images to text and signing PDFs within the new Office app.

Having two fewer mobile applications makes it easier from an IT management perspective, said Will Wilson, an IT administrator at the City of Happy Valley in Washington.

"From a user perspective, the fact that I can go into one Office application ... without going out of one app and into a different app is great," he said.

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