- Microsoft is planning a gradual shift from the classic Outlook desktop application to a web-based Outlook for Windows client, which will take at least two years for commercial customers.
- The new Outlook for Windows aims to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance productivity for users.
- Commercial customers will receive a one-year advance notice of these changes, allowing Microsoft to address concerns and improve the product before phasing out the classic Win32 version of Outlook for Windows.
Microsoft has unveiled its strategy to replace the classic Outlook desktop application, but the transition won’t be a swift one. In a recent announcement, the company confirmed that this monumental shift will be a gradual process, stretching over at least a couple of years for its commercial customers.
Last week, Microsoft published a new YouTube video that outlines the rollout process planned for the new Outlook for Windows client. The company said that the timing would be determined based on the overall readiness of the product, and the transition could take a little over two years. Microsoft also highlighted that the new Outlook should offer AI-powered features to boost productivity. Furthermore, Microsoft officials addressed some concerns of IT admins about the timeline.
Microsoft plans to give a one-year advance notice of the disruptive changes for commercial customers via the Microsoft 365 Message Center. The company will eventually deprecate the classic Win32 version of Outlook after addressing major feedback and feature gaps.
“But at some point, we will decide that we think that the new Outlook is good enough for all users and we will interface, called “cutover.” And this is where classic Outlook or universal mail and calendar are no longer supported. And so, users will have to move to the new Outlook,” said Margie Clinton, Group Product Manager on the Outlook team, and Robert Novitskey, Partner Engineering Manager for Outlook for Windows.
Microsoft has been testing the new Outlook for Windows client for quite a while, and it’s also expected to replace the built-in Mail and Calendar apps on Windows 11 in December 2024. The company released minor updates to bring these apps in line with the design language of Windows 11. However, the Mail and Calendar apps haven’t received any functional improvements on Windows 10 and 11 in recent years.
The new unified Outlook for Windows client is still in early development and it’s missing some critical mail client features, including support for Search Folders, offline access, and PST/OFT/MSG/ICS files. Moreover, the new Outlook for Windows doesn’t support COM add-ins and will use Web add-ins instead. Microsoft is planning to add the ability to open files in native apps, profiles, custom folder ordering, and many other capabilities.