Starbucks for Outlook is a new add-on which allows you to send gift cards and schedule meetings at a nearby Starbucks.
If that sounds a bit underwhelming, consider what this type of integration means for the world of invention and technology.
That is to say: if Starbucks can incorporate the act of scheduling a meeting or including a gift card right within an Outlook email thread, what's preventing you from doing something similar for your business?
It's not a trick question, it's a real one.
When we talk about innovation what we talk about is usually big discoveries or life-altering changes to the ways we work or communicate. But those things aren't how innovation works in everyday life.
In reality, small innovations that seem almost comical -- like the addition of an "Order from Starbucks" button in your email client -- are the ones which help tip the scales for imagining what's possible.
And that's what makes the Starbucks for Outlook add-on so important: it helps push our notion of what's possible.
The real value of the add-on isn't that you can find and schedule a meeting at a nearby Starbucks without having to leave Outlook, the value is that such simple plugin is going to inspire and motivate hundreds of other programmers, designers, and email client companies to work on similar functionality in their own products.
Consider the ease with which the Starbucks add-on works: you're writing an email to a co-worker, interviewer, or partner, and you want to either send them a thank you gift or schedule your next meeting outside of the office.
To do so you simply tap a "Meet at Starbucks" button in your toolbar and a drawer slides out where you can search for stores near any location or pull-up the last store you searched for with one click.
"Outlook now makes it easier for you to have that personal connection by enabling you to meet your customers, business partners or study group at your favorite Starbucks location, all with a few clicks from your Outlook inbox." says the Outlook team.
The idea behind such an add-on is blatantly silly, but it's also understandably valuable (saving people a bit more time when looking for a place to meet outside an office) and it helps underline the possibilities of more open technology.
Imagine what could happen if you or your product were to open up a bit, allowing for add-ons? Or what if you developed an add-on for Outlook yourself to help customers use your product in a more efficient way?
Having a Starbucks add-on in your email software would have been ridiculous to consider a day before this was announced. But now that it's here you have to wonder: why didn't we have this, and other add-ons like it, sooner?