Poor Email Support May Explain Weak Surface RT Sales, High Return Rate

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-02-06 Print this article Print

The other choice that Microsoft mentions is to have Outlook.com gather your POP email for you and present it in your Outlook.com mailbox. In other words, Microsoft is trying to force you to use their cloud-based email service instead of the email you’ve been using. While setting up Outlook.com so it can collect your internet email isn’t particularly hard, it’s one more step most people probably don’t want to bother with.

But there’s a bigger problem. How many people want Microsoft handling all of their email? But an even bigger issue is that using Outlook.com means that your mail stays on the server, not on your tablet. While this isn’t a big problem normally, what happens when you can’t get to the Internet? Suppose, for example, you’re trying to read your email while traveling? Now what?

There are other alternates. You can decide to have Google collect your POP email instead and run everything through Gmail. Because Windows Mail can handle Gmail just fine, you accomplish exactly the same thing, including the part about trying to read mail when you can’t have your WiFi turned on.

There are plenty of people who use one of the big webmail services such as Gmail or Yahoo mail. They’ll be just fine with Windows RT, but the vast majority of email users won’t be fine. They’re faced with changing email providers, using a third-party email forwarder such as Google or Microsoft, or not getting email.

The problem is that for most people, email is a significant reason for using the Internet. It’s also a significant reason for using a tablet device. Of course people use tablets for lots of reasons, but being able to read and respond to email without using up data minutes on their phones or sitting at their desks is one of them. By making the decision not to support POP email, Microsoft has just marginalized all of those people.

There are other issues. Google has in the past admitted scanning the content of user emails as a way to target advertising. Microsoft probably does the same thing. And there’s also the potential for abuse. Right now Gmail and Outlook webmail are free. But will they stay free once they become indispensable for millions of people? Or is this the next subscription service that slowly escalates like your cable bill?

If the reports of large numbers of returns of Microsoft Surface tablets are true, and I think they are, the difficulty of using this most basic function of an Internet device could be a major reason. By insisting on cutting out POP email, Microsoft may be killing the sales of Windows RT forever.


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