Dvorak: "Kill Outlook Express Today"
John C. Dvorak of PC Magazine does a good scorch-job on Outlook Express, focusing on a number of usability issues in an article called "Kill Outlook Express Today".
"I can tell you this much. If Microsoft persists in using this old code as the free e-mail program in Longhorn, I'm switching to Linux. It would indicate that the company really does not care squat about its customers." [While not fixing OE might indicate some lack of concern for its users, he's clearly exaggerating here. A switch to Linux could clearly be a potential frying-pan-to-fire move as well.]
"And, mind you, this is Outlook Express 6! Microsoft has gone through six iterations of this code and still hasn't fixed this, even with their usability labs and usability experts? Incredible."
Inquiring usability minds want to know if MS consulted with or listened to their usability experts when it came to OE. MS has lots of capable UX folks.
Clearly a free, scaled down version of a commercial product shouldn't be expected to have all the same features as a full commercial product (e.g. you could argue this about the spell checker and color coding features), but issues like inconsistent menu bars and modal action buttons should be caught in usability testing and fixed. A good quality, "lite" version of a product, with fewer features should be thought of as a good sales tool for the full-fledged product (Outlook 2003 in this case). If Outlook Express' quality is poor, what user would want to fork over the cash for it's "big brother"?