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Could Outlook alter the sorry state of email apps for Windows RT?

Rumors suggest that a version of Outlook capable of running on Windows RT devices is in the works.

Windows RT users have a hard life. Not only are they locked out of the Windows desktop ecosystem thanks to RT's ARM-based processor architecture, but they face a limited supply of great app choices on the Windows Store are limited. Sure, we've seen a few nice additions lately--a barebones official Twitter client here, an equally barebones MLB.TV app there, and Nokia Music. But if you bought your RT device to get some work done, your app choices remain few and far between.

Microsoft has made some steady improvements to the built-in Mail app for Windows 8, but that client only covers the basics such as folder management and flagging messages. Power user features from Outlook like working with notes and tasks, color coding, and easy calendar integration are non-existent.

Beyond Microsoft's built-in app, the Windows Store currently suffers from a dearth of mail clients. If you have a Yahoo account, you can get the official Yahoo Mail client, and there's a smattering of third-party Gmail apps. For generic IMAP/POP email clients, there's nothing worth your time. Business users requiring an Exchange client can get Nitrodesk's TouchDown for $20. But TouchDown for Windows 8 and Windows RT has so far earned a three-star rating on the Windows Store; user reviews there cite complaints about poor functionality and slow response times.

So what's an RT user to do: Use nothing but Web apps? Not for long, if the latest rumors are to be believed. Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott on Thursday reported seeing with his own eyes the desktop version of Outlook running on a Surface for Windows RT tablet during a recent trip to Microsoft's campus. Thurrott's sneak peek at Outlook RT was unofficial and came via representatives from Microsoft third-party business partners who were given early access to the app.

Thurrott didn't know when a potential Outlook RT might land on Windows RT devices, but he says the productivity app may not be free. The most likely scenario for charging for Outlook RT could be as part of Office 365. Before Microsoft offered Office 365 to home users, Outlook was typically packaged with Office's higher-priced business suites. So it's not too surprising to hear Microsoft may charge for the productivity app since RT devices come with Office Home & Student for free. Charging for Outlook RT is also a good way for Microsoft to rope Windows RT users into forking over some cash for an Office 365 subscription.

Free or not, Outlook would be a welcome addition for Windows RT users who want to be as effective on their Windows tablets as they are on their traditional PCs.


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