Microsoft Rethinks Outlook Express Future

Microsoft has acknowledged to ZDNet Australia that Outlook Express will soon be cast to Redmond's graveyard of obsolescence. Sustained development teams will continue to issue needed fixes, while the bulk of Microsoft's emphasis in the consumer e-mail space will be directed toward MSN and Hotmail.

Outlook Express has enjoyed years of being tightly bundled with all versions of Windows and standalone downloads of Internet Explorer. The distribution has made Microsoft's freeware e-mail client one of the most pervasive products on the market.

Individuals without the need to interact on a LAN found Outlook Express an ideal alternative to Microsoft's heavier Outlook client that ships with Office. An extensive array of third party utilities grew almost organically as adoption spread across desktops.

Despite its competitive market positioning, Microsoft has equated Outlook Express to an early iteration of its overall consumer strategy. A lead Outlook Express product manager recently told ZDNet, "IMAP is just not a very rich protocol."

Microsoft has instead turned its attention to the upcoming releases of Outlook 2003 and MSN 9 – both of which are fee-based, and nearly ready for launch. As of May, Microsoft announced that plans for future standalone versions of Internet Explorer have been scrapped, making the demise of Outlook Express that much more of an inevitability.

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