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Is the "Users want Outlook because they use it at home" argument valid?

By Andrew Pollack on 12/14/2008 at 09:49 AM EST

Without digging into Notes much, Ed points out on his blog, that he's done a survey that makes this idea that Outlook Express at home is how people are used to working less valid. A few things come to my mind as I read what he wrote. Usually, I'd respond on his blog site but to be honest I didn't want what I had to say to be lost in the noise over there this time around.

Regardless of his survey method being decidedly self referential -- There's validity in its results if you look at them in the right light. I see a few distinctly different groups of users now for home email.

Group 1: The Tech Savvy -- Not just the geek set, but the growing "tech middle class"

People who are at least a little tech savvy or who use their accounts for home based businesses are switching away from Outlook Express pretty quickly. They're going with Gmail, Yahoo, and similar services. Others are keeping their POP accounts provided by ISP's but are starting to access them with Blackberrys. I'm actually seeing a shocking number of personal end users who prefer to use a Blackberry as their consumer telephone. Of these, many are using it as their primary email access method.

Group 2: The Office Workers at Home

This is the group with the biggest recent change. The move in the last few years has been to put all knowledge workers in the company onto laptops with VPN remote access. That used to be a I.T. crowd or executive perk, but not any more. Its pretty much everybody now. These people have moved to using their work email address for the vast majority of communication. If they have another account, they use it specifically for things they don't want work to know about. That means job hunting, porn surfing, spouse cheating, and dirty jokes. For them, the second account is virtually always Gmail or Yahoo mail. They don't want their home ISP account associated with those activities either. They treat that second account as their throw-away email.

Group 3: The Twelve O'Clock Flashers

Then there's the true home consumer end-user. This is grandma communicating with family and an army of soccer moms. They're still on Outlook Express because someone set it up for them with their Windows 95 account several years ago. If they've upgraded their computers, they just moved to what they already knew and stayed with OE. If they're using Thunderbird, its an outdated version someone set up for them because they were told it was safer than using OE. (BTW: A Twelve O'Clock Flasher refers to those people who's VCR -- now DVD -- clocks still flash 12:00 because they don't know how to change them). Apple has hurt the OE market as well. Consumers at home are buying Apple computers at a terrific rate, and those users are of course not using OE.

This Doesn't Really Respond to what the Notes Client is missing

No matter if the trend is away from OE and toward web based services, there are things the Notes client is missing that almost every other software offers. Higher fidelity MIME and HTML mail sending and reading is a big one, and full support for "Identities" is the other. People have more than one account now. The Notes client doesn't accommodate that well. It lets you pull in your email from many accounts if you want, but your replies always go out using whatever you've set up for your Notes ID. Switching "Identities" requires you to do something like change your Notes Client "Location" -- but that's a heavy overhead task and doesn't work well if you're swapping back and forth throughout the day.

So, IBM, Its great that OE is losing ground -- and there is no question that the mail in Notes is getting better with every release. The latest iNotes (Web Mail) is fantastic, and kudos are due for that work. But it doesn't mean that work is even close to finished yet. Keep going, and keep looking at how the USERS want to work -- not just how their I.T. directors want them to work.

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re: Is the "Users want Outlook because they use it at home" argument valid?By Larry C on 12/17/2008 at 10:07 AM EST
You mention home users with Blackberrys, etc. as Tech Savvy. I would argue
that this group is becoming mainstream. Many, many every-day users are using
Blackberrys, Windows Mobile, and iPhones as more than just phones; they are
using them as full featured PDAs.

And what do PDAs need to do? A: They need to sync. And what app do these
phones sync to? A: Outlook.

So I would argue that many home users are continuing to use Outlook to sync to
their smart phones and are not completely going to web based mail, contacts,

Now, a completely different point: One thing that is always missed when
comparing Outlook to Notes is the ecosystem built around Outlook. For example,
go to the Continental Airlines website. There is a link above your reservation
to 'Export to Outlook'. Notice it doesn't mention Notes (and, if you try it,
it doesn't work). Many, many sites are the same - they have links and FAQs
about how to import to Outlook, but nothing about Notes. That is sending the
message: I should use Outlook.

Then there's the fact that everywhere you look, pundits are talking about the
cool Outlook add-ons such as
ful/ . There are plenty of cool startups targeting Outlook, but very, very few
targeting Notes. Again, it's telling you that you should be using Outlook.

The point of all this is not Notes vs Outlook (again), but rather that there
are still plenty of messages (and benefits) to home users as to why they should
(and do!) use Outlook at home.
You make a couple of really valid points here...By Andrew Pollack on 12/17/2008 at 01:37 PM EST
Those messages you're talking about are definitely pervasive, I agree. The
reason, I think, is threefold...

First, IBM does an absolutely terrible job going to those vendors and saying
"Hey, we have half the fortune 500 users out there who travel using Notes, why
isn't there an option for that?" -- That should be a full time position at
IBM for at least a year.

Second, if Continental wanted to put that link on their website, it has
traditionally been a real pain in the butt to do it. Later versions of Notes
are getting better about this, but its not obvious how they should do it. IBM
needs to fix that, and then go back to the first point about having someone
bring the information to web site owners.

Third, is the intentional market confusion between Outlook and Outlook
Express. They're very different animals, but even in reading through comments
about this discussion the lines get blurred routinely. Having OE does not make
you an Outlook user an any real sense -- but it does help the marketing story
and task a great deal.

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