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Microsoft Isn’t Re-Inventing the Wheel, It’s Re-Inventing Productivity

by Adam Thorwart | 2月 13, 2015

In Chinese folklore, the year 2015 is the year of the Goat. However, according to Microsoft’s most recent activity it might actually be the year of productivity.

  1. December 1st 2014 - Microsoft acquires Acompli, a mobile email solutions team.
  2. February 4th 2014 - Microsoft develops new touch-optimized Universal apps (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint).
  3. February 11th 2014 - Microsoft acquires Sunrise Atelier, a calendar app developer team.

What is Microsoft’s goal? Microsoft has been quite clear about its goal of making everyone become more productive, even going as far as to say that the Sunrise purchase was “another step forward on our journey to reinvent productivity and empower every person and organization to achieve more.”

Although part of me wondered what the end game was here? After mulling over the different angles I came up with two different thoughts. Scenario 1, Microsoft is driving its products on mobile because it ultimately wants consumers to buy its Microsoft Office 365 subscription package – which is positioned in the app as an in-app purchase and provides users with more features than the free version. Scenario 2 (admittedly less likely), Microsoft couldn’t get Sunrise to develop the app for Windows Phone so it made it an offer the calendar developers couldn’t refuse and purchased the company outright.

Who are the new additions to the MSFT team and what are they bringing to table?

A. Acompli – Acompli is a San Francisco based mobile e-mail app solutions team that in its own words “is closing the gap between the old paradigm of desktop email and the untapped  potential of what mobile emai should be.” Acompli released its email app in April 2014 and in less than 9 months it was acquired by Microsoft and then integrated/re-branded as the official Microsoft  Outlook app – which launched Jan 29th 2015. PC Magand Re/code have the sale price rumored to be around $200 million or more, but gut feeling says that figure is a little high.

  What is Acompli bringing to the table? The short answer here is a one-stop shop app that combines a user’s email accounts, contact lists, files, and calendars. There is a laundry list of  compatible services that can  be integrated into the  app, but some of the more recognizable ones include Dropbox, Yahoo Mail, Google Drive, and iCloud. However it is much more than a simple  “compilation” app it also helps users organize incoming mail and requests by order of importance. For  example, emails from frequent contacts or those marked with “high priority” tags are  put into  a separate inbox from any of the other received emails.

According to AppTRAX, the Acompli app was not listed as a top app for iPhone, iPad, or Google Play and there is no Acompli app developed for Amazon or Windows Phone. In 2015 the new Outlook app received some  popularity on the iPad  store. Keep in mind it only recently launched just two weeks ago so it could only be picked up by AppTRAX the last two weeks. Despite  that,  the app has 14 top 100 appearances spread across 12 different countries. Most notably it was the 29th (in  week 5) and the 34th (in week 6) top grossing iPad app in India. All other  appearances  are on the top free app list with Germany being its top market where it ranked 7th (in week 6).  

However if there was some criticism of the app it was based on a lack of innovation in the calendar. So that naturally leads to how can Microsoft improve on its new purchase’s calendar? Perhaps make another purchase like…

B. Sunrise - The New York based calendar app developer is Microsoft’s most recent purchase. The app is compatible with Google Calendar, iCloud, and Exchange - many of the same services as  Acompli which will presumably make the integration into the Outlook app seamless. TechCrunch has the sale price rumored to be around $100 million.

What is Sunrise’s value add to MSFT? The obvious answer to fill the Acompli’s innovation gap in the calendar portion of its app. And like the Acompli app, Sunrise calendar is also a one-stop shop  app that combines a user’s calendar events from various apps like Facebook and LinkedIn. Ultimately, the app makes life easier by organizing events onto one calendar and it is even integrated  with Google Maps to help the user locate/navigate to an event.

Microsoft points out that the Sunrise calendar app has already been downloaded by “millions of users.” Additionally, Kit Eaton – Personal Tech writer for the New York Times - called it the Best Calendar Apps for Setting your Agenda for the Days Ahead.

According to AppTRAX, the Sunrise calendar app has no top app appearances in 2015, but it did have a few appearances in 2014 for both the iPhone and iPad. There were no appearances for  Google Play and the Sunrise calendar app was not developed for Amazon or Windows Phone. The app was most popular in Japan in the early part of 2014 where it was the 40th (in week 3) ranked  free app and then 88th the following week.

According to Strategy Analytics’ consumer telemetry service – AppOptix – the usage level of the Sunrise calendar has been quite low compared to the overall usage of similar “Stock” apps. Less  than 1% of AppOptix’s total panel (including both former and current members) had the Sunrise calendar app downloaded to their device. Below is a representation of the engagement rate for  Sunrise app users in February 2015, so far, compared to the average engagement rate of the stock calendar apps and the average engagement of the stock clock apps. Clock apps were chosen for  this comparison because engagement patterns in those type of apps are similar to that of calendar apps.

AppOptix: Sunrise v. Stock Apps – Month of February 2015

Daily Engagement (%)

Weekly Engagement (%)

Monthly Engagement (%)

Sunrise calendar

9%

29%

46%

“stock” calendar apps

13%

39%

60%

“stock” calculator apps

30%

54%

69%

 

*Source: AppOptix is Strategy Analytics' Consumer Telemetry Platform which observes mobile behavior on smartphones and tablets using opt-in panels and a resident telemetry application. Engagement rate Is defined as the % of installed base that engages with the application on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

Microsoft’s recent acquisitions show its continued openness to bringing in new features and talent from the outside and a keen understanding of the need to constantly upgrade the user experience in a mobile first, cloud first world. 

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