This week, Microsoft announced that it is starting to implement add-ins in Outlook Mobile, starting on iOS. This is an important step for Outlook Mobile and for mobile productivity apps in general.
As a quick historical aside, it is interesting to remember that other members of the Office Mobile product family support add-in functionality too. In fact, Microsoft announced that it was bringing add-ins to Office Mobile almost two years ago. This kind of capability is an important step in advancing mobile apps, turning them from toys into true productivity tools, I think.
Looking at Outlook specifically, Microsoft has done some nice work updating and consolidating its clients across Windows desktop, Mac, the web (both Outlook.com and Outlook on the web, which is part of Office 365 commercial), and now mobile. Most amazingly, this consolidation includes add-in compatibility: The same add-ins can work across all of these different Outlook versions, including mobile.
Outlook Mobile for Android and iOS have long supported other forms of extensibility too. In addition to working with email accounts (and their associated calendars, contacts, and tasks), Outlook Mobile supports cloud storage accounts like OneDrive (and OneDrive for Business), Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive. And it supports Calendar apps from Evernote, Facebook, and Wunderlist. This surprisingly versatile mobile app in some ways is even more inter-connected than the desktop versions of Outlook.
And now we have add-ins, which are a new form of extensibility that address your email inbox.
“With these add-ins, Outlook will help you accomplish awesome things you simply couldn’t do before from email,” Microsoft’s Javier Soltero wrote this week. “Add-ins for Outlook help you transform your inbox into a ‘do-box’ and accomplish tasks quickly—right from your email.”
As I reported yesterday, add-in support is currently available only on iOS, but it is coming to the Android version of Outlook soon, Microsoft says. But that is only part of the story: On iOS right now, add-ins are only available now “to Office 365 customers”—I assume Office 365 commercial customers, but that is unclear—while non-paying Outlook.com users will get this capability “gradually.”
As usual, I’m striking out here, and I’d really like to test this functionality.
Looking at Outlook Mobile on my iPhone 7 Plus, I don’t see any add-in interface. (When it’s available, you will see a new Add-ins entry in Settings.) And I have both kinds of Office 365 accounts (consumer via Office 365 Home and commercial via Office 365 Business Premium).
So I will wait. But if you’re a developer, you can find out more about developing cross-platform Outlook add-ins on the Office Dev Center. And be a part of making mobile apps more sophisticated.