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Outlook App Arriving with Windows RT 8.1 Update

Microsoft announced this week that the Microsoft Outlook e-mail program will be part of a free Windows RT 8.1 upgrade coming this year.

Tami Reller, chief marketing officer and chief financial officer for Windows, made the announcement during a Computex keynote talk, and it was also announced here. She said that "with the Windows RT 8.1 update, Microsoft Outlook will be in-box." Microsoft Outlook is part of the Microsoft Office suite of applications, although its inclusion in the suite depends on the edition purchased.

Microsoft's forthcoming 8.1 operating system upgrade for Windows RT and Windows 8 (formerly code-named "Windows Blue") will arrive as a public preview test release on June 26. The finalized product is expected sometime this year, but Microsoft hasn't publicized a date as yet. The 8.1 update will be offered as a free download from the Microsoft Store.

The Windows RT 8.1 update will apply to Microsoft Surface for Windows RT machines, as well as to other ARM-based tablets and devices running the Windows RT OS that are offered by Microsoft's original equipment manufacturing partners. The Microsoft Surface for Windows RT machines already include a free copy of Office Home and Student RT 2013, but that suite currently lacks the Outlook mail program. Microsoft's Office Home and Student 2013 suite for x86 machines also presently lacks Outlook, which is available with other x86 editions, such as Office Home and Business 2013 and Office 365 Home Premium.

Outlook for Windows RT 8.1
Presumably all ARM-based OEM machines running Windows RT will have Outlook after applying the 8.1 update release. Examples include "Dell XPS 10, Lenovo Yoga 11 and ASUS VivoTab RT," according to a blog post by Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc.

Outlook for Windows RT will run on the "Desktop" side of the Windows RT OS, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed by e-mail. Windows RT systems, despite being heavily dependent on the "Windows Store Apps" touch-based user interface, formerly known as "Metro," still have a Desktop UI, which looks like the more traditional Windows 7-like UI. Typically, only Microsoft is able to write Windows RT applications for the Windows RT Desktop. Third-party software developer apps for Windows RT systems all run on the Windows Store Apps side of the OS.

Microsoft apparently is building its own Windows Store Apps version of Office for both ARM and x86 machines. The Microsoft spokesperson wouldn't confirm that speculation, although it was Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer who had suggested that possibility back in September of 2011, and Microsoft has already built a Metro version of the OneNote Office app. Veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley reported that Microsoft is building such a "Metro-ized" version of Office. She described it as part of a code-named "Gemini" Microsoft Office update launch that's expected to appear this fall.

Office Getting Bundled with x86 Tablets
In related Office news, Reller also announced yesterday that Microsoft Office will be bundled with some x86 tablets running Windows 8 that will be offered by Microsoft's OEM partners. She said that these x86 machines bundled with Office would start to appear on the market in the fall school year or earlier.

The edition of Office to get bundled with x86 machines wasn't specified, and Microsoft wouldn't confirm it. However, Foley said that the edition would be the Office Home and Student 2013 edition and that it only would be offered on "smaller x86-based Windows Blue devices." The idea that it just would be offered on smaller machines wasn't confirmed by the Microsoft spokesperson. However, LeBlanc's blog post hinted at that idea, stating that "Tami also shared that new small screen x86 tablets including the recently announced Acer Iconia W3, will come with Office Home and Student 2013 right out of the box." The Iconia is a new 8.1-inch Windows 8 x86-based machine, and one of the first new small form-factor devices that are starting to appear on the market.

Reller indicated that OEMs will able to bundle the Office suite on x86 tablets due to "new OEM offerings that were introduced earlier this spring." Microsoft never made clear to the public exactly what sort of discounted offerings it was making available to its OEM partners. However, the deal was rumored to decrease OEM licensing costs from $120 to $30.

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