Flavoured versions of software (and email)

Microsoft have hinted recently at flavoured versions of the Office 14 product to suit different styles of information worker (Full Story via Microsoft Watch).  I can just hear the desktop IT managers in large enterprises groaning now!  However in my opinion this is the future.  IBM are also giving different themed experiences in their Workplace product for different business functions.  I also saw one of the presentations on the new Notes client (Hannover), presented at Lotusphere which eluded that IBM expect the client experience to be enriched through the extensible nature of the client. The experience would then be matched to the type of user.

Email, more specifically 

My hope is that the vendors will also turn the corner in terms of making the email experience richer and better suited to the users needs.  I’ve posted on this earlier (1,2) and Steve has some interesting posts on user experience.

The email environment we now live in is very different to that 5 years ago.  5 years ago it was mainly a communication and message filing tool.  Now many of us manage our tasks, time, meetings, actions from our mail boxes.  We need a richer experience.  While both Lotus and Microsoft have enriched the experience it could be a lot better.  Steve and I discussed this recently.  Most email products do not have a good intuitive form of workflow to change an email into a task (without losing fidelity), track this through meetings, sub actions, tasks you are waiting for others to complete, back to email or even a document in a shared workplace.  I can see that the Lotus model would allow me to acheive this simply through modifying the design of the mail template.  On the MS side I’d have to rely on plugins.  However both vendors seem remiss in not including better functionality in this area.  I’d like to see what is in Hannover for this and the later releases of the Office 2007 betas.

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