How the New Windows 10 Productivity Apps Hang Together

By Woody Leonhard

The whole Windows “productivity” app situation — Mail, Calendar, and People — has gone through enormous change since the days of Windows 7. In the, ahem, good old days, Mail, Calendar, and People were basically just one app — very similar to the current situation in Office, where Outlook covers all the bases.

That single app, confusingly, was called Windows Live Mail, even though it handled mail and contacts and calendar. It worked reasonably well, but it was old and clunky, and didn’t have many features.

In Windows 8, Microsoft turned out three separate Metro tiled apps: Mail, Calendar, and People. In fact, all three were connected together, but they each had their own Metro tiles, and each worked more or less independently. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Windows 8 Metro productivity apps were horrible. Microsoft promised it would make them better. They didn’t.

When Windows 8 hit, the Metro productivity apps were already second rate. By the time Windows 8.1 faded into the sunset, they were all, at best, third rate, eclipsed by Gmail and various iThings. Even Microsoft itself had run rings around the apps it shipped in Win 8.1, with Hotmail, then renamed to Outlook.com.

In Windows 10, Microsoft threw away the Windows 8 Metro apps. Nobody regrets that. What has emerged are two apps — one for Mail and Calendar, the other for People — that work the same way, more or less, on Windows 10 PCs, laptops, tablets, smaller tablets, and even Windows 10 phones.

The new Windows Universal Mail and Calendar apps are basically two apps, with two tiles, that hook into the same accounts.