It’s true: Microsoft officially acquires mobile calendar app Sunrise

As had been rumored last week, Microsoft has officially purchased Sunrise Atelier, a startup that makes a popular calendar app for basically every major mobile OS except Windows. No price was announced, but last week TechCrunch reported it was “north of” $100 million. Like Microsoft’s purchase of Acompli, which later became the email component of the official Outlook app for iOS and Android, Sunrise is expected to be integrated into Microsoft’s own Exchange-based mobile apps. Sunrise is promising that its calendar app will “remain free and available” for iOS, Android, Mac as well as through a web app.

Report: Microsoft bought calendar app Sunrise for $100M

Microsoft’s been buying up mobile app startups recently to go along with CEO Satya Nadella’s “mobile-first, mobile everywhere” mantra, and its latest purchase is calendar maker Sunrise for “north of $100 million,” according to TechCrunch.

Sunrise is a delightful calendar app to use, and it integrates with Google Calendar, iCloud, and Microsoft Exchange as well as apps like Evernote, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Github to fill out events with more information than other calendar apps. One of Sunrise’s main strengths is that it’s available on many platforms, including iOS, Android, Mac, and Chrome. Given Microsoft’s new cross-platform focus, it’s absolutely possible that those apps will continue to be developed, although I wouldn’t blame Sunrise users for being nervous.

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In November, Microsoft bought email app Acompli for $200 million. It eventually became the core of a new Outlook app for iOS and Android, which has received rave reviews and strong downloads so far since its release last week. In the press release announcing that deal, Microsoft VP Rajesh Jha in charge of Outlook wrote, “Our goal is to deliver fantastic cross-platform apps that support the variety of email services people use today and help them accomplish more.”

Our Mark Crump wrote in his hands-on with Outlook for iOS that while the app “looks fantastic,” his “main complaints so far are limited to the calendar.” The calendar part of Outlook for mobile seems like an afterthought; it has a limited number of views, and it doesn’t even support a month view.

It would make sense that Microsoft has eyes to integrate Sunrise’s calendaring tools into Outlook in the same way it used Acompli to jumpstart the email side of the mobile app. Unfortunately, after Microsoft purchased it, Acompli was removed from both the Google Play and iOS app stores. Microsoft may be planning to sunset Sunrise, too.

Microsoft’s cross-platform Office push includes revamped Outlook

If you’re a fan of Microsoft services and you have an iOS or Android device, today’s your lucky day. The company has taken the wraps off a bunch of updates and, in some cases, new releases.

First up, Android tablets. Late last year Microsoft released preview versions of its Office apps – Word, Excel and PowerPoint – for Google’s larger-screened mobile devices, and now it’s removed the “preview” label. All these productivity apps are now available for free download in their fully-fledged forms, as is OneNote for Android.

For those with Android tablets running on Intel processors, Microsoft said in a Thursday blog post that a native implementation of its apps would be out for those “within a quarter.”

Microsoft has also released a new Outlook app for iOS and a preview version of Outlook for Android. There’s already a more basic Outlook.com app for Android, but this new version also incorporates calendaring, contacts and OneDrive file-handling functionality, as well as new “customizable swipes and actions.”

The new Outlook app actually represents an impressively swift wrangling of Accompli, the email/calendar app that Microsoft bought late last year. As Outlook GM and former Accompli CEO Javier Soltero wrote in a separate post, the intention now is to “continue rapidly delivering new features and functionality” in the app.

Workflow in new iOS Outlook app

Workflow in new iOS Outlook app

Tutanota releases iOS encrypted email app after notifying NSA

The German encrypted email service Tutanota has released its iOS app, weeks after its Android app came out. The delay in the release of the iOS app was apparently due to the need for those publishing open-source apps of this kind to first notify the NSA and the U.S. Commerce Department of their existence — it seems Apple is more strict about making sure this measure has been taken.

Tutanota, already available as a free webmail service and paid-for Outlook plugin, uses encryption based on open-source implementations of algorithms using 128-bit AES and 2048-bit RSA, though PGP compatibility should also be introduced somewhere down the line.

It automatically encrypts and decrypts the emails that users send to other Tutanota users. If a Tutanota user sends an email to someone not using the system, it can also be sent encrypted (the email is encrypted in the sender’s client and she has the only key) but the password will need to be shared with the recipient via phone, in person or using some other method. Unencrypted emails sent to a Tutanota user are also encrypted with the recipient’s public key once they reach the company’s German servers.

Currently, the downside is that users have to use a “tutanota.de” email address, which isn’t necessarily an attractive option for everyone, but company founder Matthias Pfau told me the firm will soon add other domain options. Those wanting to use their own domains will also get to do so at some point, but that will be a paid-for premium feature.

Pfau said the iOS and Android apps had been submitted to their respective app stores at the same time, but [company]Apple[/company] requires suppliers of open-source security software using cryptographic functions with asymmetric algorithms to — as U.S. export regulations dictate — notify the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and the NSA’s ENC Encryption Request Coordinator of what they’re putting out there. This seems to be about notification only, rather than seeking approval from these agencies as such.

I wasn’t previously aware of this requirement, but here’s what the rules say (PDF) about “publicly available encryption source code”:

You must notify BIS and the ENC Encryption Request Coordinator via e-mail of the Internet location (e.g., URL or Internet address) of the publicly available encryption source code or provide each of them a copy of the publicly available encryption source code. If you update or modify the source code, you must also provide additional copies to each of them each time the cryptographic functionality of the source code is updated or modified. In addition, if you posted the source code on the Internet, you must notify BIS and the ENC Encryption Request Coordinator each time the Internet location is changed, but you are not required to notify them of updates or modifications made to the encryption source code at the previously notified location.

Anyhow, should you use Tutanota? Well, the fact that you need a special email address is in itself a limiting factor: chances are people know your existing email address and will default to using that. There are several encryption systems out there that rely on pre-shared passwords (such as OX Guard) and, while they do avoid the difficulties of dealing with the PGP key system, unless you can exchange passwords in person you’re arguably less secure than if you were using PGP – it really depends on whether you’re under heavy targeted surveillance.

In theory, you don’t need to trust Tutanota to use its system, as you would hold your key (and the company wouldn’t be able to remind you of it if you lose it). The company has had a security scare in the past, with a researcher finding a cross-site scripting vulnerability, but that flaw was patched up and Tutanota subsequently went open-source and published its code. That means it can be freely audited, though it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been thoroughly audited. Pfau told me a couple bugs had been flagged this way, but they had nothing to do with the service’s security.

Microsoft brings a business-only Outlook app to Android

One of the themes of Satya Nadella’s short tenure as Microsoft CEO so far has been an increasing focus on bringing Microsoft’s most valuable properties to multiple platforms. The latest evidence is a new Outlook app introduced on Google Play this Wednesday. Generically named Outlook Web App, the email client is very similar to the Outlook app introduced on iOS last summer: a barebones way to check a paid Office 365 for Business email account, as well as look up contacts and check calendars on the run. Unfortunately, it won’t work for Outlook.com email accounts just yet, but based on Microsoft’s recent history, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a version for consumers in the near future.