How Microsoft Can Win the RSS War

Scoble links to a blog post by Michael Affronti, a program manager for Microsoft’s Outlook team, about planned RSS integration in an upcoming version of Outlook. I use Outlook for email and probably always will. I have often scratched my head about why Outlook (unlike Outlook Express) doesn’t have newsgroup integration- thereby making users launch another program to read newsgroups. Now it looks like Outlook will have a built-in RSS aggregator so users won’t have to look elsewhere to read their RSS feeds (there’s a screen shot on Michael’s blog post).

Here’s how Microsoft can win the RSS war:

1) Make the RSS integration seamless. The screenshot looks pretty sweet in this regard.


2) For the love of Elvis, give us a “mark ALL feeds as read” button. The lack of this is a Sage-killer for me.

3) Figure out a way to give us 3 big viewing panes: a list of feeds; a list of post titles; and the post itself. Give me an integrated way to click to the post page AND home page of the blog I’m reading. In most of the RSS readers I have used, the first two columns make the window where the actual blog post appears too narrow. Outlook has a good pane structure now, so this should be easy.

4) Give us a way to synchronize our feeds, including read and unread, over multiple computers (via Foldershare, perhaps?). Scoble mentions the need for synchronization in his post. Foldershare, Foldershare, Foldershare. Say it with me…

5) Get this release out there before Firefox and/or Sage makes Outlook as an RSS reader as yesterday’s news as it’s in the process of making Internet Explorer. Firefox (and the multitude of extensions for it) is seriously kicking Microsoft’s butt as far as the browser feature war goes. I just don’t know if Microsoft can move fast enough to keep up. I hope it can (I have owned Microsoft stock for a long time), but I bet it can’t.

Alas, there are also ways Microsoft can lose the RSS war:

1) Take forever (see above).

2) Remove elements and features that people are expecting (think Vista).

3) Release something that does what other RSS readers do, but doesn’t represent an evolutionary advance. People need an evolutionary advance to switch. That’s why Internet Explorer dominated the browser market pre-Firefox.

Outlook still owns the email business and no one has come out with the ultimate RSS reader yet. Microsoft can win the RSS war if it moves fast enough and gives people something that is significantly better than what we have now. That sounds easy enough, right?

UPDATE: Mike busted me on my lack of numbering skill in the comments. I just fixed it. There are three reasons why I can’t count : (1) I’m bad at math, (1) I can’t type and (1) I’m bad at proofreading 🙂

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