Aug 22, 2021Liked by Steven Sinofsky

It's so interesting to read the story of Outlook from the inside. We were an early adopter of Exchange for the enterprise, replacing around a dozen department-based email systems (VAXMail, Microsoft Mail for PC, Microsoft Mail for Mac, several instances of cc:Mail, at least a couple of hardcore research groups using UNIX-based SMTP mail on Sun, and probably a couple others I'm forgetting). The introduction of Exchange was quite painful, with frequent hiccups in the deployment accompanied by constant complaints from departments that thought their previous email system was better suited to their needs in one way or another. Most of the in-place Microsoft apps like Word and Excel had been bought as one-offs and were rarely updated. Office was viewed as much too expensive for our environment, and the concept of regular taking updates and getting everyone on the same version of everything (even the OS) was still viewed as completely impractical without a robust desktop management toolset. From an early end-user point of view at that time the eventual domination of Office and Outlook/Exchange was not at all obvious. We had a lot to learn.

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Sep 6, 2021Liked by Steven Sinofsky

At COMDEX 95, Bill's keynote showed off a lot of what Steven is getting to around the desire for everyone in the company to want to provide the optimal 'shell' to productivity work. The Project X demo my team pulled together (mentioned in earlier posts) served as the center piece to communicate some of these ideas.


The whole video is worth watching (especially video conferencing from a phone booth!), but at this juncture Bill is talking about how 'objects' could play a role in 'simplifying' the desktop. He goes on to show a 'rather cluttered desktop' where documents are clustered around subjects on the desktop.

The 'graph' along the bottom that Bill describes is actually a timeline of all the productivity tasks conducted in Office and the Windows shell. It's what became 'the Journal' in Outlook that Steven includes above as a screenshot. We visited a 911 call center in the early 2000s that was still using it!

In the current version of Windows you can see that vision is still alive today. Typing <windows+tab>. The timeline scrolls vertically, but in 1995 we imagined it scrolling horizontally -- like Project's Gannt chart. The graph in the background that Bill triggered off of wasn't sales figures, but an indication of the amount of time spent on individual files or tasks.

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Dec 29, 2022Liked by Steven Sinofsky

I joined Ren/Outlook in early summer 1995 as a college hire, so reading all of the backstory is fascinating. Learning the ins and outs of Microsoft was hard enough as a newbie, and then layered in was all of the Capone vs. Outlook stuff was very confusing. But on the other hand, I got to go to a raging party (on day 4 of my employment) at BrianMac’s house, the biggest house I had ever seen in my life. A pool, kegs of beer, and a home movie room with a laserdisc player.

Two fun Outlook v1 stories. Maybe you remember these Steven. We were just about to ship a major milestone (I think Beta1, I can’t quite remember which) As a joke, a developer swapped out the Outlook boot screen and instead showed a hilarious and unflattering photo of Brian Valentine (head of Exchange and Capone) in a hula skirt and coconuts from some previous ship party. He was not a small guy, so the photo was meant to embarrass. The dev thought he was checking this photo into the internal build but screwed up the checkin and it went into the Beta 1 official build. It was found before we sent out the CDs but was a major big deal and embarrassment to the Outlook team. And it also made the Exchange team hate us even more 😃

The second story was that after Outlook v1 shipped, the Exchange team had spun up their successor app/code name called “Highlander” which came from the movie of the same name, and the movie tag line was “There can only be one”, implying the Highlander team’s goal was to kill Outlook and there would ultimately only be 1 mail client. And one wonders where the famous meme org structure of Microsoft pointing guns at each other comes from...

Either way, I had a total blast on the Ren team and it was a great experience to start at Microsoft, and long term Outlook did indeed become a bedrock for Office.

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Sep 1, 2021Liked by Steven Sinofsky

In my opinion, this section did not come across as clearly as earlier sections. I found myself re-reading certain paragraphs to be sure I was getting the point you were trying to make.

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