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Windows RT tablets to get Outlook

The ‘secret’ is out, Outlook is coming to Windows RT tablets.

Windows RT tablets, like Microsoft’s Surface, are to get proper Outlook software later this year.

The news was announced by Microsoft in a blog post but the work on Outlook RT had been an open secret for months.

Windows RT is the low-power version of Windows running on ARM chips. The most prominent device is the Microsoft Surface which, while a nice piece of hardware, is badly let down by Windows RT. ‘RT’ Windows can’t run standard Windows programs so there’s a notable lack of available programs.

Word 2013, Excel 2013, PowerPoint 2013 and OneNote 2013 come with Windows RT devices at no extra charge, but there’s no equivalent of Outlook. That’s a major lapse and makes RT devices unappealing to businesses. In addition, the licence for Office RT is for home and non-commercial use so a business customer has to (in theory) pay again for a full Office licence.

Outlook RT will go part way to making Windows RT tablets more appealing.

It will arrive at the same time as the Windows 8.1 update, later this year. It seems Outlook RT will have to be installed separately via the Windows Store. (Amazingly, Windows Update doesn’t apply to metro/tile apps which have to be updated entirely separately within the Store).

Microsoft is promising that Outlook RT has been ‘reworked’ for touch screens. It will have Outlook 2013’s in-line replies and ‘peek’ feature to let you hover over an item to see more details.

But we still have to wait, though not as long as was expected. Outlook RT was targeted for late 2014, by which time Windows RT would have been deader than Microsoft Bob. We hope the accelerated release schedule doesn’t mean a buggy, feature limited program.

Another consideration with Outlook RT is disk space. Outlook’s PST/OST files can easily grow to 5GB, 10GB or more – that’s a significant proportion of the available space on a Surface device that has a lot less room than advertised.

Outlook is a major resources hog. The RT devices have slower processors (the trade-off for longer battery life) and less memory which will affect the responsiveness of Outlook. On the plus side, the tablets have solid state drives which are lot faster and makes a significant difference to Outlook.

All up, Outlook RT coming out in 2013 is good news but let’s see how it works in the real world before getting too excited.

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