In another very confusing move from Microsoft, it has today emerged that they plan to use the archaic Word rendering engine for their new version of the email client Outlook 2010.
Designing and building for email is one of the hardest standards-based issues to solve, this is due to so many clients using different rendering engines. Microsoft avoided using a browser to render HTML emails in Outlook 2007, instead using a word processor which forces designers and developers to use tables etc.
It seems however that the Outlook team don’t wish to move with the times and the first impressions of the beta of Outlook 2010 signal that the client is continuing to use the Word rendering engine for HTML emails.
Campaign Monitor have a little more information about this, including a response from Outlook product Dev Balasubramanian:
“The reason for this lies in the benefit Outlook users gain by having Word as their e-mail authoring tool; rich tools like SmartArt, automatic styles and templates, and other benefits found in Word 2007 and 2010 enable Outlook users to write professional looking and visually stunning messages.”
“I am aware of where this decision on our part places Outlook from a standards perspective – at the same time, we ask that you consider the benefits Outlook users get from having Word tools in their e-mail authoring experience.”
“Having multiple HTML engines could reduce performance, as well as create an inconsistency in terms of what type of content the user is able to create vs. consume.”
We’re not particularly sure where the problem lies with this one, Outlook should be using a browser to render emails almost certainly but it will use Internet Explorer which isn’t the most standards friendly of browsers to begin with. Then you could argue that if it’s intent on using Word to render emails (incorrectly), then why not update the Word rendering engine to bring up to speed with HTML emails?
There are several ways to look at it but one thing’s certain, a client as widely used as the Outlook series, made by a company the size of Microsoft should not be using an old method of rendering emails like this.