What works where: Outlook vs. Outlook vs. native apps

Office 2016 starts to unify the Exchange experience on the desktop, but native apps do better on mobile clients.

What works where: Outlook vs. Outlook vs. native apps
Derek Walter

Microsoft is in the midst of reworking its Outlook clients and server software to truly support its mission to bring its Office communications tools everywhere: the Mail, Calendar, People (contacts), and Notes components in Outlook. (I did not include OneNote because it does not work through Exchange but through the still-unfinished OneDrive for Business.) In the meantime, Microsoft has a hodgepodge of clients whose capabilities vary widely, which can bedevil multiplatform organizations.

It may take years for Microsoft to deliver fully on that universal promise, but Outlook 2016 is off to a good start, at least on the desktop. Outlook 2016 is now available for all major platforms, with two exceptions:

  1. Although available for local and personal Office 365 installation, Outlook 2016 (like the full Office 2016 suite) won't be available for enterprise Office 365 installation until later this month. 
  2. Windows Mobile 10, the Windows 10 version of Windows Phone, is still in beta; thus, so is its Office 2016 software. I did not include it here as a result.

Native clients from Apple, Google, and Samsung also support many Outlook features via their Exchange connections, and for some organizations, a mix of Microsoft and non-Microsoft clients may make sense.

To make sense of the universe of Exchange-compatible clients on the major operating systems, I've put together a table that shows the features where differences often remain. That way, you can see what client mix best supports the features you use, and which features are ones that will thwart a multiplatform policy based on the notion of equal citizenship.

You may be surprised by how capable, for example, the Apple and Samsung clients are on their platforms. They also have better user interfaces than the Microsoft and Google clients, in my opinion. When you look at the capabilities of the Windows Universal "Outlook" apps that come with Windows 10, called simply Mail and Calendar, you'll also see why any business Windows user really needs the full Outlook app over the free limited Universal apps.

The tables below have three major sections: one for all the Outlook 2016 clients, one for the native Apple OS X and iOS clients, and one for native Android clients from Google and Samsung. You may need to scroll horizontally to see all the columns. And you may find it easier to work with an Excel spreadsheet directly, so I have provided a downloadable version of the complete table in Excel format as well.

Compare which features work on which Outlook clients, and how they compare to the native clients for Apple and Android devices. Galen Gruman / InfoWorld

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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