Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why Mail On the Move Isn't Working

More and more of the people I interact with on a daily basis are doing all or very nearly all of their email on a mobile device - mostly iPads, iPhones (if they have a choice on the device) or blackberries (usually if they don't have a choice).

But email tools on these devices have not evolved much in the last few years.

- They are still, essentially, one large inbox (and often one inbox with email from multiple accounts in them). Managing sub-folders is cumbersome.

- They support only basic searching (Apple's iPad email search is significantly poorer in capability than its spotlight search built into the device and much worse than Mac Mail or Microsoft Outlook). Searching To/From/Subject just doesn't find what I need often enough (and why can't I search across all sent mail in one go?)

- There is little or no support for flagging email, moving it to a task application, attaching it to something else you're working on. In short, if you don't deal with an email the moment you see it, then you are unlikely to ever go back to it and so your mobile device suddenly becomes a bottleneck - either you're not answering your email or you're constantly marking items read/unread as you try and juggle your task list.

- As soon as you have more than one email account, any effort to manage a simple non-duplicated contact list is doomed. I know people who 5 or even 10 copies of every person they know in their address book. The effort to sort that is huge - and you have no guarantee it won't recur as soon as you've fixed it

Lots of work is needed - to build on the advances already achieved (I don't want to take anything anyway from the effort expended to get universal inbox, the basic search capability, exchange on iPhone etc) - to ensure that we can be genuinely productive whilst on the move.

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