Microsoft's acquisition of startup Sunrise is an attempt by the software maker to improve the user experience in its clunky Outlook email application for iOS and Android mobile devices.
Microsoft announced the acquisition last week, saying it would continue to offer the Sunrise calendaring app as a standalone product on the iOS App Store, Google Play and the desktop. Financial details were not disclosed.
The Sunrise app provides calendaring tools via a Web client. One of Sunrise's strengths is its ability to sync and consolidate calendars from different providers. For example, Sunrise users can RSVP to events on Facebook, which will appear on their Google Calendar, thanks to integrations between Sunrise and third-party apps.
While integration details between Sunrise and Microsoft technology have not yet been disclosed, the Sunrise app is expected to give users a more consistent experience between their calendar, third-party apps, and the Microsoft Outlook mobile client, without having to toggle between separate applications, according to Microsoft.
"Email acts as a conduit to data and actions that tend to be located elsewhere, and in order to process messages, users have to switch in and out of different applications, [which is] difficult," Javier Soltero, general manager of Outlook and former CEO of mobile email app maker Acompli, said in a video posted to the Microsoft blog.
The Sunrise acquisition, along with Microsoft's recent Acompli purchase, will help the company advance its mobile collaboration strategy and compete with other vendors who are also shifting focus to mobile productivity, including IBM and Google.
Startups like Acompli and Sunrise are helping large UC players like Microsoft become more agile and to adjust their product strategies to keep pace with market trends. Many email platforms like Outlook were not created for a mobile environment, so the user experience can suffer, said Frost & Sullivan analyst Melanie Turek.
"We are seeing a real need for vendors to move to this mobile-first approach, ahead of even the desktop experience, and this acquisition shows Microsoft is paying attention to this trend," Turek said.
Rajesh Jha, corporate vice president for Microsoft Outlook and Office 365, said in a blog post that the company recognizes the need to overhaul the way people use mobile calendars.
"We believe a reinvention in the way people use calendars on mobile devices is long overdue," he said.
Managed mobility and mobile email
Work-life balance issues not solved by mobile email bans
Which is the killer app; mobile email or SMS?