Microsoft announced in a blog post on Monday that it has acquired Acompli, a developer of email apps for iOS and Android mobile devices. Only time will tell how the Acompli acquisition will impact Microsoft email on iOS, Android, or anywhere else for that matter — but if Microsoft doesn't screw it up, there's a lot of potential to work with.
I don't have any inside scoop or clairvoyant view into the strategy that Microsoft has in mind, nor do I know why Microsoft thought that spending $200 million on Acompli was the right way to achieve its goals. I do, however, have extensive experience as a Microsoft Outlook and iOS mobile device user, so I can see a number of ways Microsoft can benefit from integrating Acompli with Outlook.
Rajesh Jha, Microsoft corporate vice president of Outlook and Office 365, explains:
"In a world where more than half of email messages are first read on a mobile device, it's essential to give people fantastic email experiences wherever they go. The Acompli team is passionate about this quest. Their app provides innovative ways to focus on what's important in your inbox, to schedule meetings, and work with attachments and files. Users love how it connects to all email services and provides a single place to manage email with a focus on getting things done."
Let's take a look at three ways Microsoft can benefit from acquiring Acompli:
1. Integrated email experience
I use the Microsoft OWA app on my iPhone and iPad... or at least I use them as much as I can. The problem with OWA for iOS is that it only allows you to connect with one Outlook / Exchange account. I have multiple Outlook / Exchange accounts, as well as multiple Gmail accounts, so I frequently have to revert to using the iOS Mail app so I can actually see all of my email.
Acompli enables you to add multiple email accounts, and it aggregates all of the email together in a single inbox — something Microsoft definitely needs. The Acompli apps are also able to seamlessly integrate with cloud storage like OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox — making all of your cloud data available to attach to an email in just a tap or two.
2. Highlight what's important
In addition to the aggregated Inbox, Acompli also has a Focused tab, which surfaces important email so that it doesn't get buried in the general inbox chaos.
Acompli learns over time what you consider to be important. You can move emails from the general population over to the Focused tab, and Acompli will pay attention to the people and content you consider important — so, it can automatically determine which messages you might consider important in the future.
With a little effort, this feature can bring attention to emails from your boss, messages with travel confirmations, or meeting invitations — similar to the way Google Inbox applies artificial intelligence to help sift out the important content.
3. Better calendar integration
The OWA app for iOS does have calendar and contacts features, but they're disjointed. You can back out to a tiled view and select the calendar or people tiles instead of the Outlook inbox, but it ends up feeling like three separate apps with little or no integration.
Acompli appears to do a much better job of meshing the calendar and email together. It makes it easier to view your schedule to confirm availability when you receive a meeting invitation via email. Acompli is also capable of syncing both Exchange and Google calendars.
In the end, it's up to Microsoft which, if any, of these elements get adopted into the Microsoft mobile email experience. Hopefully, Microsoft will take full advantage of what Acompli brings to the table. It would be nice if Microsoft would also build those same features and capabilities into its web and desktop Outlook clients as well.
What do you think about Microsoft's purchase of Acompli? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.