By Jeff Gould
I’ve blogged several times about my frustrations using Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access (OWA) as an interface to Office 365 (see my friend and co-blogger Doug Miller’s defense of Office 365 here). I subject myself to the discipline of using OWA instead of the vastly superior Outlook thick client – which I used for years as a front-end to Gmail – because I want to experience at first hand the reality of an all-cloud approach to email.
I’m sorry to report that things aren’t getting better with OWA. I continue to have near daily performance problems with this software. OWA remains painfully slow to load, much slower than Gmail (note: to avoid possible browser compatibility issues, I use IE with OWA/Office 365 and Chrome with Gmail). But it gets worse: OWA frequently freezes completely. In fact as I type these words I’m locked out of my Office 365 account because OWA has yet again gone belly up while executing a routine operation (updating a calendar appointment). Of course I do have a workaround: just pull out my iPad and access the account from the native iOS mail client – that works fine. But that’s not the solution I’m looking for.
Seriously, why can’t Microsoft fix these problems with OWA? Is anybody in Redmond paying attention to this product? Or is it on the development back burner because it’s a low revenue generator?
Microsoft is right to tout its many assets in its ongoing battle with Google Apps for enterprise cloud supremacy. The rich server-side functionality of Exchange, the sophistication and ease of use of the Outlook Windows client, the ad-free and no-user-tracking business model of Office 365, and the ability to deploy highly customized hybrid solutions that combine on-premises software with cloud (especially useful for large organizations with complex needs) – all these features give Microsoft a real advantage in the contest with the Mountain View search engine giant. But the wretched state of OWA is a hefty fly in the ointment.
Microsoft, please fix OWA. At a minimum you shouldn’t rest until it is every bit as fast, smooth and stable as that remarkable Gmail web client. And if you really want to win this game, how about making the OWA client even better than Gmail? Now that would be audacious.