Microsoft’s Wunderlist acquisition is getting complicated

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Photo by Sam Byford / The Verge

Microsoft first acquired Wunderlist almost three years ago, promising the to-do app would help the company “reinvent productivity for a mobile-first, cloud-first world.” At the time, Wunderlist founder and CEO Christian Reber joined Microsoft to continue leading the app forward. Instead, Microsoft launched its own To-Do app to replace Wunderlist last year, and fans of Wunderlist haven’t been happy it’s going away.

At the time of Microsoft’s To-Do launch, the company announced the new app would eventually replace Wunderlist and incorporate most of its best features. That hasn’t really happened yet, and fans of Wunderlist are labelling Microsoft To-Do a “half-cooked scrap.” Wunderlist founder Christian Reber left Microsoft in September just a few months after the new app launched, and he’s now taken to Twitter (spotted by Dr Windows) to reveal why Microsoft’s To-Do app is taking so long to get to feature parity with Wunderlist.

“There were technical porting challenges,” explains Reber. “Wunderlist’s API runs on Amazon Web Services, and should then be ported to Azure. But that was extremely time-consuming, so everything had to be rewritten.” The process of rewriting an entire app is clearly complicated, and as Reber puts it “easier said than done.” He also reveals that the original goal was to run Wunderlist for a year and then have Microsoft To-Do ready, but the porting from AWS to Azure means Wunderlist has remained online.

Microsoft’s To-Do app

Wishing the To-Do team success, Reber also mentions it “was not a pleasant experience,” in response to a Wunderlist fan who isn’t happy with its successor. It’s clear that Microsoft’s acquisition of Wunderlist and its integration into the company has been messy, and perhaps even avoidable. Microsoft has been acquiring mobile productivity apps at a surprising pace, and the company successfully turned Accompli into its popular Outlook mobile app. Microsoft also acquired Sunrise to shutter it and move its features into Outlook mobile.

Wunderlist’s complications do sound all too similar to Microsoft’s struggles in overhauling Skype’s backend infrastructure. Microsoft has been using its own Messenger backend for Skype services for years now, but it was a rocky transition. Skype has also been redesigned so many times it’s hard to even recall the number, and if Microsoft isn’t careful with To-Do then it could end up with a Skype-like experience that’s desperately in need of being fixed.

Comments

Thanks fo the article Tom.

I was on Wunderlist and Wunderkit since beta, even spent a couple of years subscribed to Wunderlist Pro. I tried To-Do again last week and just couldn’t get myself to love it. At this point, Microsoft should just sell it back to the founders – its a very reliable, beautiful, and dependable app with full platform independence.

I’m really disappointed with how this has happened. I was a major user of Wunderlist, but To-Do is simply awful for my needs. There’s still no way of seeing what tasks are due today – I don’t want to have to find and (re-)add everything to ‘My Day’ at the start of each day! And a year on, there’s still no Mac app.

With Wunderlist itself being essentially frozen in terms of new features, I switched to Todoist which is definitely imperfect but it offers the vast majority of the features I need, whereas To-Do is really a completely different app compared to Wunderlist/Todoist because of its total focus on ‘My Day’ rather than actual due dates.

With the acquisition I’d really hoped Microsoft would just further improve/integrate Wunderlist, linking to its own services, not replace it with a barely-half-baked completely different app.

I’d recommend having a look at TickTick. I found it more of a wunderlist equivalent than todoist and despite it being relatively new it’s really feature complete compared to a lot out there.

Just keep using Wunderlist….that’s what I do. So aside from no new features, it’s not a big deal…but Wunderlist is great as is, so no new features is not a big deal for me.

Me too… I don’t get this obsession with new features. It works, don’t break it, call me when To-Do is up to the task.

call me when To-Do is up to the task.

I see what you did there

I was excited for Microsoft’s online offerings when O365 was released but over time their offerings have become more confusing with multiple products doing similar things.

e.g. Outlook has task which also shows flagged emails. To-do shows outlook tasks but doesn’t show flagged mail even if a due date is added to it. Planner creates tasks (from a group) which don’t sync to outlook or to-do and then ms projects can assign task which again doesn’t sync with the other solutions.

I tried to use to-do when it came out but i found it to simple. when you open it it will show nothing unless you add them to your day. if you do add it to your day and don’t mark it as complete it doesn’t automatically add it to the next it just doesn’t show it ever again unless you go back into the task list and re ad it to your day. And it does’t sync flagged emails which is where a lot of my tasks come from.

I would really like to use something like planner (trello format) but it won’t allow for a private task list (must be part of a group) and again it doesn’t sync with outlook tasks.

and then there’s the many different groups… that’s a topic for another day.

I hope they don’t mess up the app that I actually use more than any other app on my phone!

Fingers crossed, Microsoft.

I haven’t switched over yet. They are even way behind on getting the to-do app integrated with some corporate mobile security policies. I have plenty of users who want it to get their tasks from exchange online since the Outlook app doesn’t do tasks yet. But I still have to block it for now.

The place I work is set up to run on both Azure and AWS. We don’t implement a feature unless both support something similar and we can write a wrapper for it. It’s been useful considering the downtime each platform has had, we just transitioned over to the other with a DNS change. It does mean we have had to pass on implementing some useful features only one platform has, but I think it’s the better plan in the long run.

Interesting. So are you running primarily one one platform with the other acting as a ‘cold failover’, and changing DNS routing to the standby in case of a failure? Which platform are you running as primary and which one as backup?

Oh, wow. How awful the architecture must have been that the entire app had to be rewritten just to change the backend.

Probably minimal abstraction spaghetti code

Actually like Todo much better. Wunderlist was too bulky for my needs.

That’s why I write my todos on a .txt and or toilet paper.

Hmm, so I just installed it on my Android phone, and it’s just so incredibly bare-boned? I’m looking for the settings, but there aren’t any(?), and I also tried to add notes/to-dos that were longer than two lines, and that didn’t really work. Well, that’s a shame. It looks good, but it’s way too minimalistic for my taste right now.

Un-freaking belevable.

Our family just started using wunderlist, and its awesome. Now I learn that Microsoft are going to screw it up. Most likely by pulling the app before the replacement is anywhere near ready.

Great job, guys, great job [slow hand-clap}

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