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Microsoft to 'Clutter' Office 365 users with OWA upgrade

Microsoft upgraded its OWA for Office 365 users to support Android devices and reduce email clutter, but IT pros say one update may hurt more than it helps.

AUSTIN – One of Microsoft's big Outlook Web App updates is meant to reduce email clutter, but it may actually do more harm than good, IT pros say.

Hoping to further enrich its Outlook Web App (OWA), Microsoft revealed at its Microsoft Exchange Conference three new features, including Android phone support to allow users to access Exchange mailboxes.

The company also introduced a new capability, code-named Clutter, to help Office 365 users better manage high volume email by automatically separating out unimportant emails.

At a keynote demonstration, Microsoft officials showed how pulling information from Exchange, the technology can detect what content you delete or choose to ignore and personalize the view of your inbox by removing the "clutter" for you.

Some attendees were a bit skeptical about Clutter's value, saying they didn't like the idea of emails being automatically removed from their inbox.

"I can admit my inbox can be something of a rat's nest, but I want to be the one to fix it," said Ned Simmons, an IT admin with an Austin-based college. "Sometimes I skip over emails without touching them, making a mental note to go back and deal with it later. I don't know how Clutter would know that."

Clutter makes a bit more work than is necessary, said Mike Drips, a solutions architect with Wipro Technologies Inc. in Houston.

"It seems Clutter is documents that aren't spam but also aren't important," he said. "Nice concept, but now you will have to check your inbox and the clutter folder to check all your e-mail."  

The third new feature, intended to improve document collaboration, lets Office 365 customers attach documents as weightless links through its OneDrive for Business product. It provides a new side-by-side view of attachments within conversations so that much of the context users need for discussing a documents can be seen with a single view.

"Document collaboration in the cloud seems like a solution for organizations who don't have SharePoint," Drips said. "This appears more like building a bridge to a SharePoint sale than an actual solution."

Lastly, the OWA for Google Inc.'s Android devices completes the cycle Microsoft  started last year when it released OWA for Apple Inc.'s iPad and iPhone.

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Tool for the Outlook Web app will “sweep” user inboxes clean of this clutter, giving users the opportunity to review the “clutter” in its own distinct location. And, like most spam tools, if an email is accidentally labeled as “clutter,” a user can move it into email that he or she sees in the future.