Microsoft Ignores Twitter Outlook Complaints

Last Updated Jun 25, 2009 3:32 PM EDT

Microsoft has seen the fury of the masses and like Atlas, shrugged.

A Twitter campaign astroturfed by email marketing campaign vendor Freshview is asking (or is it begging?) Microsoft to reverse course on a key technology decision made for Office 2007 in its next release of Outlook, slated for next year.

As if. The die is cast. Even if it wanted, Microsoft probably couldn't, given its hidebound and rigid development cycles. Outlook 2010 is slated to launch in less than a year, which is far too little time to make non-trivial code changes. But the truth is that Microsoft doesn't want to change, and it doesn't have to. Why? Sixteen thousand Twitter users, mostly professional developers, don't stack up to some 300 million Outlook users trapped in enterprise license agreement hell.

At issue: Outlook uses Word to render HTML email messages, which means marketing email designers have to code using tables and font tags, rather than standards-based code, to ensure that recipients using Outlook have the same experience as those using other email clients.

According to the Email Standards Project, which launched the Twitter campaign, Microsoft refuses to change

so emails composed in Outlook will look consistent when viewed by other Outlook users
Microsoft's reaction to this campaign is a mixture of arrogance and condescension:
We've made the decision to continue to use Word for creating e-mail messages because we believe it's the best e-mail authoring experience around, with rich tools that our Word customers have enjoyed for over 25 years
The fact that Microsoft has such a huge installed base is why it survives and will be around long after it's become an anachronism, but the fact that it feels no need to meaningfully address very direct user input is exactly why it will soon become that anachronism.

[Image source: Email Standards Project]

  • Michael Hickins

    Michael Hickins has written about technology and business for BNET, InformationWeek, InternetNews.com, eWEEK -- where he was executive editor from 2007-2008 -- The Curator, Pseudo.com, Multex Investor, Reuters, and Conde Nast's WWD.com. Hickins is the author of The Actual Adventures of Michael Missing, a collection of short stories published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1991. He also published Blomqvist, a picaresque novel set in 11th century Europe, in 2006. Hickins remains passionately interested in the intersections of business, technology, politics and culture, and endures a life-long obsession with baseball. He is married with two children and lives in Manhattan.