A Brief History of Microsoft's mail and Exchange clients on the Mac: Part I

I often get asked what the story is with Microsoft's various Mail clients for the Mac. It will take a few posts to give a full historical overview that will fill in the major details and might answer some of the questions.


This first post discusses the various versions of the Exchange client and Mac Outlook. A future post will talk about Mac Internet Mail and News (IMN), Mac Outlook Express (OE) and Entourage. I'm going to skip talking about VirtualPC, Remote Desktop Client and Outlook Web Access, all of which are excellent options for getting Exchange connectivity on a Mac, but aren't really Exchange or Mail clients.


The older information has been reconstructed from various sources and happened a long time ago (before I was at Microsoft) and in a galaxy far far away (as in: they weren't produced in the MacIPU or the MacBU) so I can't really vouch for the accuracy of the older information, but I figure it is worth a post, and I'll be glad to update it with any other information.


Way back in the early 1990s, before Exchange and Outlook and Outlook Express, there was a product called Microsoft Mail for Mac or MSMail for Mac or Mail for AppleTalk Networks (or something like that), and also a Schedule+ for the Mac. It was a workgroup post-office client, and I don't really know much more about it. It seems Microsoft bought it or its precursors along with the precursors of Exchange back in 1991 from Consumers Software, a Canadian company based in Vancouver, for something like $20 million. The original application was called "Network Courier e-mail". Microsoft later sold it to StarNine (which was bought by quarterdeck which was bought by 4D). You can follow some ancient links to find out more if you are really interested:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;148946, http://www.computerbooksonline.com/train/chpter1.htm, http://www.tidbits.com/tb-issues/TidBITS-050.html


The first version of Exchange (4.0) shipped in 1996, and included a beta release of a  68K Mac client. A Full Mac client with PPC support shipped a little later in 1996. This client wasn't localized to any languages beyond English, and supported only mail. It had no PIM functionality, and didn't support MAPI forms. The code name for the Windows and Mac client was "Capone".


Exchange 5.0 shipped early in 1997 and included an updated Mac client that added support for schedule+ calendars by integrating a schedule+ application into the client. (http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=/support/exchange/content/whitepapers/mac5.asp#Schedule)


Windows Outlook 97 (the first version of Outlook) shipped in early 1997.


Mac Outlook 8.0  shipped in November 1997 and added support for forms through OWA. It was a PPC-only release and was partially based on code ported from Windows Outlook.


Exchange 5.5 shipped in early 1998.


Outlook 8.01 shipped in mid 1998. It added 68k support back, and fixed problems with the new Mac OS 8.


Mac Outlook 8.1 shipped in November 1998 and included s/mime support, but still didn't work well with the Win Outlook calendar which had diverged from Schedule+.


Mac Outlook 8.2 shipped in mid-1999. It was an attempt to fix customer dissatisfaction by showing Microsoft commitment to Mac in an interim release while work continued on a more complete release. It still didn't include cross platform calendaring, but did include other smaller fixes and updates. There are few more minor release in the 8.2 line, but I don't know much about them: 8.2.1 in summer of 1999, and 8.2.2 in May of 2000.


After a lengthy public beta, Mac Outlook 2001 (code name: Watson) released in June 2001. It featured full cross platform calendaring and a much improved UI. It is fine little PIM and still runs happily on my Mac in classic mode. The first real OS X releases were around the corner and the decision was made not to try to keep bringing the Mac Outlook code forward, so the Mac Outlook team was disbanded.


You can glean some of this history from the Lifecycle pages on the Microsoft support pages: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?pr=lifecycle


In the next post in this series I'll relate the story of how Mac Internet Mail and News became Mac Outlook Express and then became Mac Entourage, and how Entourage is the future.