An email developer’s first look at the Outlook Mail app in Windows 10

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The new Outlook mail app in Windows 10 
First look and going hands on with the new email client

Windows 10 is the upcoming version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system and there are some big changes coming One area which caught my attention was the mention of the Outlook email client. While its not unusual for Microsoft to talk about their own software, the changes to how Outlook and the whole Office suite will be on Windows 10 is certainly a shift from the current package. Windows 10 will feature a new Outlook app that will be the default email client in Windows 10, replacing the current Mail and Calendar apps in Windows 8/8.1. Not only that but its also a universal app and will be on phones and tablet devices as well.

Universal Office apps

Microsoft have decided to develop fully touch optimised Office apps along side the desktop counterparts that will be part of the Office 2016 suite. The universal Office apps will be pre-installed on all Windows 10 devices. This represents a change from any previous version of the Office suite, particularly noting that the Outlook email client was only available for desktop clients or in Windows Phone 7/8 (though its really its own version under the name Outlook Mobile). Now however the universal Outlook email app will be the default mail client across all Windows 10 devices going forward. We could very well see Outlook regaining some email client market share due to this change.

My Testing Environment

Everything documented in this write up was done with following:

  • Windows 10 for Phones Build 10051
  • Windows 10 for Desktop Build 10061
  • Lumia 635 as my test device for the mobile build
  • Parallels 10 Virtual Machine for the desktop build
  • IMAP Mailbox
  • Exchange Mailbox
  • Rendering test email template – Find it on Github

The universal Outlook Mail app on Windows 10 for Phones

The first obvious change is the interface, the entire UI/UX has had a make over and it looks more like its iOS and Android counterparts. A welcoming change that looks part of the overall Windows 10 design model. Generally the UX is a lot more modern looking and a bit more functional than Outlook Mobile on Windows Phone 7/8. At this time however the UI doesn’t feel polished, which is to be expected. I’m sure the interface will evolve over the coming preview builds.

Outlook Mail inbox view and new user interface

Though from an email developer point of view that’s not my main priority here, what I want to know is what’s under the hood and how emails look when rendered with the Outlook Mail app. Using my specially crafted email rendering test template, I can provide some initial details in a summary.

HTML/CSS support in the Outlook Mail app on Windows 10

  • Microsoft Word Engine is confirmed as the rendering engine for POP3/IMAP mailboxes
  • Exchange/Office 365 accounts do not use the Word Engine in the Outlook Mail app
  • HTML support level appears to be around the HTML 4.0.1 spec
  • CSS support level appears to be around the CSS 2.1 spec, though not complete
  • Supports VML (Vector Markup Language)
  • Outlook Mail app can be targeted by MSO conditional comments (but with caveats)
  • Supports CSS in the <head> (When using POP3/IMAP)
  • Supports CSS @import (When using POP3/IMAP)
  • Supports external stylesheets (When using POP3/IMAP)
  • No CSS attribute selector support
  • No CSS3 Support (Ouch, no media queries)
  • Responsive design? Forget it

A lot of these points are very much the same as its current desktop app counterpart.

Word up, Microsoft

The first point was all but confirmed when Microsoft mentioned the “great” authoring experience that Word will bring to Outlook back in January 2015. Yes we’ve all heard that before and it doesn’t fly with email developers. Yes you might very well have the ability to compose rich email content with Microsoft Word, but doesn’t mean it has adequate HTML/CSS support for the modern web and rendering of email campaigns in today’s world, those are two very different things! The relationship between email developers and the desktop versions, particularly Outlook 2007 – 2013 has proven this many times over.

Because the rendering engine is Microsoft Word, the Outlook Mail app does respond to MSO conditional comments like any other version of Outlook on a Windows platform, in this case these MSO conditionals all respond true as well as other well known variations you can think of.

<!--[if mso]>
Microsoft Office/Word Engine. Oh joy.
<![endif]-->
<!--[if gte mso 15]>
I'm Outlook 2013 or Outlook 2016/Outlook Mail app
<![endif]-->
<!--[if gt mso 15]>
I'm newer than Outlook 2013!
<![endif]-->
<!--[if mso 16]>
Outlook 2016/Outlook Mail app
<![endif]-->

I’m calling it the 2016 version, Microsoft are calling the upcoming Office suite 2016 but I actually have no idea what Microsoft are classing the engine version as, seems the version string in the Windows 10 for Phones preview build 10051 is actually 17.3925.42002.0, which strangely doesn’t match the conditional comment numbering in use. The version numbering used in the latest Office 2016 preview (February build) is 16.0.3823.1010 which makes more sense here and matches.

We do have some potential detection abilities available like the desktop versions. However due to the whole one Windows vision, and sharing the same Microsoft Word core, both the Universal Outlook app and Outlook 2016 app (desktop) both will respond true to the above, therefore its hard to target an Outlook version based on the device its running on as there appears to be no distinction between them, you kind of expect this for a Universal app, but this will make life harder for email developers.

Anatomy of an Outlook email message in Windows 10

Most email developers know about the Microsoft Office/Word schemas that need be on the root HTML tag in order to use certain languages like VML. Looks like the universal Outlook app has support for others as well, as the following was spotted on a composed email sent from the Outlook Mail app.

<html xmlns:o="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" 
xmlns:w="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word" 
xmlns:m="http://schemas.microsoft.com/office/2004/12/omml" 
xmlns="http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40">

We have in addition to the Microsoft Office/Word ones, Office Open XML and yes HTML 4.0.1. Oh boy, this is turning out to be a fun discovery mission. Looks like the rendering standards of the Universal Outlook app are limited to that HTML specification then. Great.

This was also found lurking in the head:

<meta name=Generator content="Microsoft Word 15 (filtered medium)">

The Windows 8/8.1 mail app also added a similar value to email content, it doesn’t really have much meaning to the email itself, just provides more technical information about the rendering engine.

A more complete look at an email crafted in the Outlook Mail app, spoiler alert, lots of MS word crap.

<html xmlns:o="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" xmlns:w="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word" xmlns:m="http://schemas.microsoft.com/office/2004/12/omml" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40">
<head>
<meta http-equiv=Content-Type content="text/html; charset=utf-8">
<meta name=Generator content="Microsoft Word 15 (filtered medium)">
<style>
<!--
/* Font Definitions */
@font-face
	{font-family:"Cambria Math";
	panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4;}
@font-face
	{font-family:Calibri;
	panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4;}
/* Style Definitions */
p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal
	{margin:0cm;
	margin-bottom:.0001pt;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:"Calibri",sans-serif;}
p
	{mso-style-priority:99;
	margin:0cm;
	margin-bottom:.0001pt;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:"Calibri",sans-serif;}
.MsoChpDefault
	{mso-style-type:export-only;}
@page WordSection1
	{size:612.0pt 792.0pt;
	margin:72.0pt 72.0pt 72.0pt 72.0pt;}
div.WordSection1
	{page:WordSection1;}
-->
</style>
</head>
<body lang=EN-GB>
	<div class=WordSection1>
		<p><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
		<p style='margin-bottom:12.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
		<p>Sent from Outlook Mail for Windows 10<span style='display:none'><o:p></o:p></span></p>
		<p class=MsoNormal><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
	</div>
</body>
</html>

MSO conditional hacks and compatibility issues

Two popular design methods of choice for emails are fixed width or using max-width, problem is Outlook doesn’t care for max-width, so without forcing a width to stop your email going super wide, it tends to look a bit naff. With fixed width the idea is you’ll use media queries to sort out sizing for mobile devices. This method does have issues with clients that don’t have CSS3 support, so instead you might opt for a hybrid method, similar to the one below to set a fixed width for desktop clients but let everything else use max-width, as even troublesome clients like the Gmail app support it.

<table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="max-width:600px;">
    <tr>
          <td align="left" valign="top">
<!--[if (gte mso 9)|(IE)]>
              <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="600" style="width:600px;">
                  <tr>
                       <td align="left" valign="top">
<![endif]-->
<!--[if (gte mso 9)|(IE)]>
                       </td>
                 </tr>
             </table>
<![endif]-->
          </td>
    </tr>
</table>

Outlook clients will use both tables, while non Outlook clients will just use the first table as most support max-width. This did work great for Outlook because it was exclusive to desktop clients, but now because Windows 10 on phones now also uses Microsoft Word, it to will use the fixed width table also and render the email at 600px, something which you don’t want to happen on a mobile device!

This means current MSO conditional hacks will likely causes compatibilities issues in Windows 10, because they were originally designed to be used on Outlook desktop clients only! This is now no longer the case.

Likewise any fixed pixel width design will also suffer the same issue, but to further complicate the issue, the viewport appearance makes it even worse.

Watch the viewport on mobile devices

This is further problematic when you see how the viewport view is in the Outlook Mail app on Windows 10 for phones. Why is this such a problem? Well because this is how the viewport behaviour is:

Papa Johns email campaign on Outlook Mail

In this case on the Lumia 635 the max viewport width in portrait mode is 480px, a common and well known screen size for a mobile device, but the viewport behaviour here is to actually to have the email zoomed in like the example above, horizontal scrolling is possible, but I can’t pinch zoom that email out at all so I’m getting a really horrible zoomed in email view. This is really an issue, and breaks compatibility with a lot of email campaigns as of now. The only initial solution I can see is a fluid type layout without using any fixed width values at all (percentage based) or if the width of the email is set to a mobile friendly size to begin with. This however limits a lot of current email development methodologies.

Landscape view is a little better but still a lot of wider emails will be cut off. Here’s a couple of examples:

Example EE email campaign in Landscape mode on Outlook Mail

Example Litmus Community email campaign in Landscape mode on Outlook Mail

The viewport meta tag has no effect on the email whether its part of the email or not.

X-UA-Compatible won’t save you now

Similar to the viewport meta tag, because the rendering engine is now no longer Internet Explorer (IE Mobile) like Windows Phone 7 and 8, the magic that this meta tag brought is now no longer effective on Windows 10, seems this is only applicable to IE based clients.

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge" />

R.I.P – You were the saviour of email on Windows Phone 8

The universal Outlook Mail app on Windows 10 for Desktops

outlook-mail-desktop

When I originally wrote this article, the Outlook Mail app wasn’t included in any of the public desktop preview builds. On April 22nd, Microsoft released build 10061 for desktops which included the Outlook Mail app, so I was able to test out everything I did on the phone in the desktop environment.

While mobile devices are the future, Outlook on the desktop is still very much alive. In a nutshell, everything mentioned above is exactly the same on the desktop client, this is to be expected as it is after all a universal app. The same rendering engine (Microsoft Word) is also at the heart of Outlook Mail on the desktop. Not really a surprise I guess. Because of this the HTML/CSS rendering capabilities are also exactly the same.

The exception however is the viewport issue. On the desktop the email pane obviously has a larger viewport area to play with, but considering smaller tablet devices will also be including Outlook Mail, you’ll still want to keep your emails fairly tight.

One interesting point to note is the Outlook Mail on the desktop has a responsive UI which Microsoft calls adaptive UX. Meaning based on window size, the Outlook Mail app actually adapts in the same way a responsive email or website would. What’s frustrating is that behaviour doesn’t translate over to the email window pane! Something that would be really cool if it could be implemented!

Exchange/Office 365 accounts

If you use an Office 365 or Exchange Account within the Outlook app, the rendering engine changes, the client will no longer render email with the Microsoft Word engine. I was half expecting this to the the case as this was the same behaviour on Windows Phone 7/8. Instead, you get the rendering standards of the Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) procotol. There unfortunately isn’t a lot of information documented about the HTML/CSS support level with the EAS protocol, other than what email rendering tests produce. It supports basic HTML to a similar level of the Word engine but has even less CSS support than Microsoft Word. The following CSS support areas differ to the Word engine:

  • No CSS in head support
  • No @import support
  • No external stylesheet support
  • VML will not work

Summing up my thoughts on the Outlook Mail app

Based on everything so far, the email experience is certainly is a step backwards on mobile while the desktop remains pretty much the same as its predecessors as well as the upcoming Outlook 2016. Because the Outlook Mail app is not responsive and doesn’t have any CSS3 support, this really does hurt the mobile space more and is a step backwards from Windows Phone 8/IE Mobile.

With that in mind it is also important to keep an open mind about this one too. Don’t forget these are still preview builds of Windows 10. A lot of areas are still likely to change. I would like to think this also concerns the Outlook Mail app so we hopefully aren’t seeing the final product in terms of rendering capabilities, but instead a rough and unfinished version that Windows Insiders get to see develop.

I will however be sure to make me voice known via the Windows Feedback program for Windows 10 regarding the Outlook Mail app. I don’t think Microsoft can really pass the Outlook Mail app off as being acceptable as it is right now in today’s modern web world. I urge other email developers that happen be running the preview to do the same, otherwise I can see a revival of the “Fix Outlook” campaign coming back.

More to come

Admittedly, this write up was a fast publish situation. I wanted to get my hands of the Outlook app in Windows 10 and gain some initial insight as I’d been waiting a good few months! I’m sure there will be so much more to find out and discover as the Outlook Mail app evolves in Windows 10. Hopefully you’ve found my initial findings useful and a peek as what’s to come for the future.

If you have any questions about the Outlook Mail app on Windows let me know in the comments or get in touch!

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  • Mark Robbins

    Great write up.
    I’m wondering with all these universal apps, are they releasing a version of Word for mobile? If so will they some way of viewing that without loads of horizontal scrolling on mobile?

    • Yes. Its very much part of the Windows 10 plan. There will be Universal Office apps along side the Office 2016 suite on the desktop. I’m sure the Office apps will scale down Word documents, probably however there will be limitations. Percentage based plain documents will probably be OK, in the past however the Office mobile apps have struggled on elements like long tables that have loads of columns.

  • Oh, Microsoft. I don’t even know what to say. All that really comes to mind is about twenty thousand exclamation marks.

    Thanks for such a comprehensive write-up though 🙂

    • Thanks! A massive slap in the face from Microsoft from an email standards point of view isn’t it? Developing story I’m sure!

  • Pallav Kaushish

    Seems like a wreck. If it is anything to go by, Microsoft really don’t care much since it already has the supremacy in the email world.

    Would be interesting to see how other email clients leverage W10 platform to get more people to move away from Outlook.

    em client – no info yet on W10 launch
    Mailbird – They are coming out with a full touch support and a polished UI for W10.
    Postbox – only mentioned a new design for W10 with their 4.0 release but nothing different as such.
    Inky – no info so far on W10.

  • Gall Anonim

    Responsive design ? Forget it ? No you dnon’t need to. There is a way to make it working 🙂

    • You could obviously develop a fluid layout, which wouldn’t require media queries and overriding fixed widths, but it depends on the approach. I think the point stands that Outlook Mail in Windows 10 is bad news thus far, but I hope Microsoft do improve the Word rending engine.

  • Nick

    Just wondering did you do any research on the use of background images on Windows 10 Mail? I cant get mine to work

    • Its not an area I looked into to be honest. However, I’ve seen some interesting differences regarding VML. Outlook Mail appears to not rendering VML the same way every other Word based client has previously. As an example, I noticed a CTA button generated by VML was not clickable, I don’t know if similar trends apply elsewhere. Hopefully I’ll got some more time to investigate further.

      • Nick

        I have been testing this as well, as i use background images in my own design but it appears that the standard if with the same
        is no longer supported the same way as before.

      • Ira

        Great post, Did you look into background images?
        I am having such a headache trying to figure out a solution, try error all the possibilities but so far didnt make it work.

    • Katrina

      We use this within the td that houses the background=”#” attribute:

      Content here

      • Katrina

        That didn’t post the mark up go figure…

  • Roger

    Very interesting write up! I run my own email server at home using Zarafa and connect to that from Win10 using EAS. I have two machines – one ‘production’ and one ‘test’. Having finally upgraded ‘production’ to Win 10 I noticed that the Mail app rendering was much poorer on the ‘production’ machine than the ‘test’ one.
    Thanks to your post, it occurred to me that this was because I had Office 2016 Preview on the ‘test’ machine and indeed, if you install Office 2016 (you need also to uninstall Office 2013) then the rendering within the Mail app radically improves.
    Notably, the issues with zoomed in pictures and ultra wide emails that you mention above disappear. Mail 10 does also finally recognise embedded HTML links in plain text messages – which was the bane of my life in Mail for Win 8.1 🙂

  • toasti

    I bought a Lumia 640 last week to see something new and fresh, but the switch from a Nexus 4 is very hard.
    I also realized this bug with wider emails in W10 mobile preview and it’s very annoying.
    Is there any update on the way, do you know anything?

    • Basically the same problem. The Microsoft Word engine. I’ve since wrote another article very recently about the main problems and what needs to be done to change it. Its still very much down to Microsoft to sort.

      https://blog.jmwhite.co.uk/2015/12/11/html-email-in-outlook-mail-on-windows-10/

      • toasti

        Oha, thanks James. Yes, exactly this problem and it is very frustrating.
        It seems to be a lot of work on Microsoft’s site and I’m wondering when we can get a finished OS that is able to compete with iOS and Android.
        At this moment I’m not sure if I should send the device back or not. Vanilla Android on my Nexus 4 is still a very fast, reliable and easy system. Google just knows how to program such nice looking and easy software.

        • It is sadly. Its been Microsoft’s problem for some time. Microsoft need to accept they need to change Outlook Mail in Windows 10 and modify the Word engine to be more web standards compliant. The broken email layouts we are all seeing are the direct result of the Word engine lacking modern HTML/CSS support. Its come as such as shock to most users because Windows Phone 8/8.1 used an entirely different rendering engine which was far better (IE Mobile a.k.a Internet Explorer)

          Being a Lumia 950 XL user and email developer, I can emphasise with your frustration regarding Outlook Mail, myself and other developers are trying to get Microsoft to change their approach with Outlook, even more so that now Outlook and MS Word engine has entered the mobile space.

          To the insiders, Windows 10 (particularly mobile) is very much still a work in progress, it depends on how you feel about the Lumia 640. Can you wait for Microsoft to fix things? If not, you should reconsider your device choice and avoid further frustrations.

          • toasti

            I hope Microsoft is reading blogs like this and listen to all the users who report such problems.
            You do a very good work!

            I updated to W10 after a few hours and didn’t use the Outlook app on 8.1, so maybe I can wait when I use 8.1 in the meantime which has not that email problem if I understand right?

            Regarding the Lumia itself. I’m not sure if I’m happy or not. The Nexus feels much better in my hand.
            Windows 8.1 was nice what I have seen in the short time. The main reason (besides to have something new after 5 years Android) to have a look on a Lumia was the famous capability in taking pictures, but I think to see a real difference to my Nexus 4 I have to upgrade to a Lumia 930 or 950.

          • Thanks 🙂

            Windows Phone 8.1 has better email rendering yes, due to email app using Internet Explorer as the rendering engine, it too had problems, but its A LOT better than MS Word.

            My honest option, despite the email issues. I love my Lumia 950 XL, it was a great upgrade from my Lumia 925, I don’t regret sticking with Windows Phone (which is now Windows 10 Mobile), there are still rough edges with certain OS features and apps, but I’m sticking with Windows for the long term!

  • Kirk Hayes

    I have a strange situation. I am running w10 on a surface book pro 4. I am able to connect w10 email client to my work exchange email, however I am unable to get outlook 365 to connect using the same credentials and server information. Any idea why one would work and one won’t?

    • I would ask your server administrator or Microsoft for support.

  • nickwalt

    Hi James, some great analysis in a solid article. Thanks!

    I just wanted to add a comment about the experience I am having with Windows 10 Mobile, in general, and also point out some deficiencies in the new email client.

    Microsoft seemed to be on a roll there for a while with Windows Phone 8.1. They developed a great UI and UX by taking what seemed to be a first principles approach to their designs. This allowed them to innovate a really clear, fluid and quick OS for the phone.

    With Windows 10 Mobile, it seems like they have abandoned this and chosen to confuse the platform with designs taken from both Android and IOS. The new Mobile experience is less clear, much less fluid and gives the user a frustratingly fiddly experience that is also noticeably less quick to use.

    To hear that Microsoft is also making some poor technical decisions to drive what is going on under the hood is more bad news.

    Windows Mobile is really and truly up against huge competition and making it function like Android and IOS isn’t going to win any love from their existing user base. The joy of using Windows Phone 8.1 is not present in Windows 10 Mobile. From a usability standpoint Windows 10 Mobile is a noticeable step backward from its predecessor.

    Something that no one seems to be talking about is the functionality and user experience of the new Outlook Mail client on Windows Mobile. To me the clarity and elegance of the email client in WP8.1 was very, very good.

    A significant part of what made the experience so good on the WP client, which the new client doesn’t have, is the ability of the user to open more than a single email.

    The new client has some very limiting “features” taken from IOS which makes the client not very good for more than casual use. When an email is opened the user cannot browse the client or open another email. If they need to check something as they compose the new email they are forced to close it. Forget about copying and pasting between emails with any ease.

    The same limitation is seen when a user shares a URL from Edge. An email is opened and the user cannot access the browser until the email is sent or closed. Forget about adding other information from the webpage you are sharing, or any other page.

    In addition to these issues, the UI of the email client in Windows Mobile shares the same tiny iconography and type sizing as the rest of the new OS. The tiny elements have extremely poor haptics and Microsoft have gone from a large element experience, that was effortless to use, to a very compressed tiny experience that is frustratingly slow and fiddly.

    The typeface size and style in the new client only makes this worse. Not only has the typeface become ugly at that size, but the “color” of the Type is now unpleasant. The typography is ugly and hard to digest quickly. It’s terrible for scanning and moving quickly (just like the small icons).

    Forget about Conversation mode in your client. Not only is everything horribly compressed, but the starter of the email is not always at the front of the line, which makes scanning back through emails a nightmare.

    Let’s not forget the Hamburger menu, placed at the far opposite to the most stable corner of the phone in a user’s palm. This causes a continuous imbalance as we are forced to slide and stretch to reach it, and this is on a small Lumia 920.

    There are some more “features” in the email client but their implementation has destroyed the experience, so I don’t see the new client as a step forwards.

    Using Windows Mobile for a while hasn’t made it any more enjoyable. A poor design is a poor design and unfortunately it doesn’t seem like anyone from the original Windows Phone team is still around to keep things on track.

    • Hi nickwalt,

      Sadly this is very much the case with a lot of areas with Windows 10 Mobile. WP 8.1 really did have a nice design language going for it, but because of the business decision to scale back the mobile division, Microsoft seemed to have forgotten what made the (now defunct name) Windows Phone platform appealing to its core user base. There is no denying that there is a hell of a lot of UI inconsistencies in so many apps on Windows 10 Mobile and unfortunately it will be like this for some time. Microsoft seemed to have just gave in and appeased the iOS/Android camp with adding hamburger menus and the like. Which I personally hate on a 5.7 inch form factor, even with one handed mode.

      Its ironic but because of how Windows Phone/Windows Mobile never really took off in terms of serious market share, Microsoft probably invest a lot more development time with iOS/Android rather than their own platform.

      The UI of Outlook Mail itself, I find a little better than Windows Phone 8.1. There is more functionality when you really dive into it but going back to the UI inconsistency point, a lot of the menus are buried or hidden in non intuitive ways. Overall however the app itself is more functional in my opinion. The point about the rendering capabilities of Outlook Mail compared to Windows Phone 8.1. Another story and I wrote additional information about it (see link below). No surprises, the problem is still happening in 2016. Though more recently a lot of non-dev users are now being very vocal about it, so Microsoft can’t ignore it forever. Seems they’ll need users to survive!

      https://blog.jmwhite.co.uk/2015/12/11/html-email-in-outlook-mail-on-windows-10/

      I was in the technical preview programme during development before opting for the Lumia 950 XL in November, I must admit early on I wasn’t that impressed with Windows 10 Mobile. I’d compare it to the feeling to what sold me with going Windows Phone in the first place, I didn’t have that same feeling with Windows 10 Mobile. What did change my opinion slightly is the experience of Windows 10 Mobile on my Lumia 950 XL. It is a great phone hardware wise and very fluid. I do wonder how well Windows 10 Mobile runs on older hardware however, I got mostly average results with my Lumia 635/925 (though the former only has 512 MB of RAM).

      I do see a lot of comments around lately that Windows 10 Mobile will never be “finished” because of Microsoft’s Windows as a service (WaSS) model. Personally, I think that statement is a complete joke. Microsoft shipped Windows 10 Mobile unfinished, simple as. You just have to look at the functionality gaps with core areas like Cortana (Its still BETA?!) and its harder to defend Microsoft as the days go on. I personally cannot recommend Windows 10 Mobile to anyone currently, because its just a mess to anyone on the outside. Its a shame because the hardware (like the Lumia 950 XL) is being let down by the software which is completely avoidable and its Microsoft’s own fault.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      • nickwalt

        Hi James,

        Thank you for articulating great points. I think you hit it on the head very well.

        It is strange that Microsoft spent so much money on acquiring Nokia’s phone division and had invested so much into their own Windows Phone OS, and then just walk away from that initial commitment.

        The lack of capability in the email app, specifically the single open email limitation, seems to be at odds with the goal of Continuum. That is, until we factor in the release of a much fuller Office 365 Outlook version for Windows Mobile. This would be the way to monetize the platform a bit and fit with Continuum’s use case.

        About my comments regarding the UI look of the new Outlook Mail client for Windows Mobile: I see that your screenshots are different to what my app looks like. Your text looks better and I wonder if that is because you are running on the new Lumia 950. Although, the search and other buttons are at the top for you and for me they are in their usual place on the bottom, next to the three ellipses.

        As you have said, I also have lost the joy of using the platform. It is quite noticeable and I am now looking to Nokia to see if they will release an Android phone with their own version of Android that rocks and which may well support Microsoft’s platform out of the box very well.

        I think that it is quite possible that Nokia will get back into the phone business. Although, I don’t know how much they will be affected by the amount of IP that they lost to Microsoft.

        When I think of Microsoft’s approach to platform it seems to me that they don’t know how to make a truly compelling product. Everything still seems disjointed and that any value-add that was developing over the past two or three years is in decline.

        We’ve watched OneDrive get chopped down and become too simple. Not sure if the cool features (granular file and directory controls) were moved to OneDrive Business. If so, it seems like Microsoft is moving back to their business and enterprise roots to better monetize their services.

        Trouble is, I’m not interested in Office anymore. It has not evolved enough and remains clunky (thinking Word, primarily) and the UI still has elements from a decade or more ago. Outlook for Office still doesn’t support cool things like tags (much more flexible and fluid than categories and folders, duh) and isn’t showing any real innovation.

        Microsoft have such a huge opportunity to innovate their user experience stuff but they just don’t seem interested. I’ve been playing with Hyper-V for Windows 10 and the Hyper-V manager is STILL like it first was. Just clunky and damn ugly. This is a common issue with Microsoft. For some reason they can’t get UI and UX, except in isolated instances (um, like Windows Phone 8.1 and a few apps).

        A lot of the modern apps for Windows 10 have a nice design language but their functionality is limited or plain clunky. Microsoft doesn’t seem to be able to do both simple AND sophisticated – something that Steve Jobs said was (and is) very difficult.

        I hope that Microsoft really do consider the roots of Windows Mobile and iterate away from the poor design choices they are currently invested in.