So, its been a long time coming, but its about time that I post a little ad for MSN. If you want to know about the future, you’ll want to read this.
On the surface, I can see why people feel that Lookout’s “time has passed”. Lookout is definitely no longer the focus of our team, and if you are a Lookout user, that seems bad. But let’s not pretend that Lookout was better than it was either.
Lookout was a great first generation indexing tool. It was great because it helped solve a real world problem in a reasonable way. In particular, I think it was the first tool of it’s kind which really focused on Outlook first. This was the mind shift which was hard for many search products. Focusing on email-only seems too narrow for many. But Eric and I both think that for a lot of users – outlook is the operating system. You can agree or disagree, but its with that mindset that we built Lookout.
MSN recognized the value of Lookout and bought the product. Users wondered if MSN would re-brand it, or use it as its base for new products, or something else. Some think that MSN killed it. But that is far from the truth. What we decided to do was to leverage the Lookout knowledge, experience, and themes to help build a better product. MSN was already loaded with technology which could easily implement the features, and they would have gotten a lot of it right even without Lookout. But bringing in Lookout seemed like a good way to increase MSN success.
At the same time, Lookout couldn’t have survived on its own. Fast search is much bigger than just Outlook, and frankly, should be in the operating system. The fact that it is not should be (and is) a bit of an embarrassment to all of us at Microsoft. (Note: For those that would ding Microsoft, however, please note that Linux doesn’t have search either! It seems obvious now, but search as a feature of the OS was not obvious.)
In the end, for Lookout to survive, it needed to evolve. And while the exact code of Lookout may not exist in its original form, I think the themes, vision, and future of Lookout very much does still exist within MSN + Windows Desktop Search.
Where things stand now is that most Lookout users have already switched happily to MSN + Windows Desktop Search. It has a lot more features, better indexing, and a better UI. At the same time, I do know that a lot of users think MSN is too heavyweight to replace Lookout. And that seems to be the primary reason for people still using Lookout. We know that. But do you think we like it that way? NO WAY!!! We’re fixing it. We have the technology, and more importantly, we have the desire and passion to do it.
The focus on hard-core Outlook integration is continuing as MSN goes forward. I wish I could say these features had made the cut for the first draft of product, but they didn’t fully, and I think that is why some users still prefer Lookout. But as I sit here looking at what is coming from MSN, I can honestly say with conviction for the first time that with the next rev of MSN, there is just no way any users will want to continue using Lookout. The new version of MSN rocks – its so much better – and its not too heavy. And users should also be delighted to know that we probably couldn’t have built this product this quickly from a startup. We needed MSN’s help.
Overall, it’s great that MSN bought Lookout. It’s not the same code as Lookout, and it’s not even the same developers (they are much better than we were!!), but the theme of Lookout is absolutely still part of MSN, and that may have been the most real value that Lookout ever had.