The mobile calendar features that Microsoft acquired when it bought Sunrise earlier this year are helping to give its Outlook mobile e-mail app a facelift. Redmond said today that it will be adding Sunrise's "richer calendar experiences" to its own Outlook app -- starting with iOS [pictured] -- before eventually phasing out Sunrise as a standalone app.
A new look with calendar features from Sunrise will be coming to Outlook for Android in early November, Microsoft added. The company is also developing an Outlook mobile app for Windows phones that will be released soon, the company said.
Over the past year, Microsoft has made a few acquisitions aimed at further developing its mobile e-mail offering. In addition to Sunrise, which it acquired in February, the company has also been integrating technology it gained with the purchase of Acompli in December.
'Just Getting Started'
Rolling out today, the updated Outlook app for iOS users features a fresher, cleaner design that "puts your e-mail, calendar, people and files front and center," according to Javier Soltero, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Outlook team. The new version of the app also offers a number of navigation and user interface improvements designed to make it easier and more intuitive to use, he said today in a post on the Outlook blog.
The Outlook apps for iOS and Android were first released in January, and Microsoft plans to continue refining them to bring "a true Outlook e-mail experience to every mobile platform," Soltero said. He added that there are now nearly 30 million active users of the app logging 1.2 billion sessions on smartphones and tablets every month.
"These numbers show what we've known for some time -- despite reports to the contrary -- e-mail is a key communications channel across all parts of our life, and there is growing demand for a mobile e-mail experience that helps to effectively manage those conversations," he said. "We made terrific progress over the last nine months, but we are just getting started."
Gradual Incorporation of Sunrise
One of the updates to the Outlook iOS app adds an "event" icon to messages with invitations of some kind, with the ability to quickly click an RSVP button on the right. Adding attachments to messages in the app has also been made easier, with one-click attaching for files and photos.
The updated app also helps users better navigate their calendar appointments and shows a dynamic "Today" button to make it easier to tell how far back or ahead of time different dates fall. Responses to events can also be more easily tracked with the help of green, gray and red icons alongside each event.
Microsoft has also been continuously tweaking its Outlook app for Android users to incorporate the Google OS' use of "Material Design." The result will be a look that "feels more cohesive" and provides users with more at-a-glance details about events and contacts, Soltero said.
"Over the coming months, you'll see richer calendar experiences come to Outlook from Sunrise -- including Interesting Calendars and connections to your favorite apps and services," he added. "You will also see improvements to Outlook's ability to create meetings while on the go and handle meetings across time zones."
While expanding integration means Outlook will eventually fully replace the current Sunrise calendar app, Soltero said Microsoft will leave Sunrise in the market until its features are fully integrated into Outlook, "the exact timing of which we will communicate in advance."