As the Oct. 26 ship date of Windows 8 approaches, Microsoft has announced new versions of many of the key Metro (since Microsoft still hasn’t given us a better name for them) apps. The new features of Mail are described in the screen grab on the right: message threading, better IMAP support, proper handling of calendar invitations, and better search. The new app hasn’t actually rolled out yet, so I couldn’t test how well it delivers on these promises. But even if these new features are very good, they only nudge mail closer to marginal acceptability.
The biggest missing item remains a consolidated inbox for all your accounts. Also missing are such abilities as saving searches into smart mailboxes, message sorting, and the ability to flag messages.
This is important because at least in Windows RT, which means on all ARM-based tablets including Surface, this is the mail program you are going to have to use. It’s possible that third-party mail apps will emerge soon, but as of now there are none in the Windows App Store. For anyone who considers email important, and that is still an awful lot of people, that puts RT tablets at a significant disadvantage to the iPad, whose mail app is quite good, and Android, whose mail app is not so great, but still a lot better than this.