It might be the world's most widely distributed email client, but Microsoft has confirmed that it has no intention of further developing Outlook Express.
"[Outlook Express] just sits where it is," said Dan Leach, lead product manager for Microsoft's information worker product management group. "The technology doesn't go away, but no new work is being done. It is consumer email in an early iteration, and our investment in the consumer space is now focused around Hotmail and MSN. That's where we're putting the emphasis in terms of new investment and new development work."
While Outlook Express has always been most popular with individual consumers, many business users have also utilised it, in part because it is part of its default Windows install. Microsoft executives are hoping those users will now switch to the full-blown Outlook client (and pay for an Office licence in the process).
"IMAP is just not a very rich protocol," Steve Conn, Exchange Server product manager, told ZDNet Australia during the company's Tech Ed conference. "The great majority of people used Outlook Express because they weren't on a LAN environment, and Outlook was just too fat for them."
The currently-in-beta Outlook 2003 client has much lower bandwidth requirements, he said. In May, Microsoft revealed that it was no longer planning to release standalone versions of Internet Explorer, which includes the Outlook Express functionality. Future releases will only be made available as part of the Windows platform.
Update: Microsoft has since altered its stance on the future of Outlook Express. Click here for more details.