Note: I work for Microsoft, in the Office division, but I don’t work in or with the Outlook team. I don’t have any specific knowledge about their decisions or plans, and this post is based only my own experience here at Microsoft.
First of all, thanks to everyone for the responses; I am glad that this alternative viewpoint at least sparked some discussion. Despite what you may think, there are plenty of people on the “front lines” at Microsoft that really care a lot about this stuff, and we try very very hard to make sure The Right Thing (tm) happens whenever possible.
I have responded to the comments directly in the post, but I wanted to also mention that I filed two separate bugs in our internal bug database. The first covers the fact that we’re apparently not obeying your browser preference when you open an email in a browser, though this may have something to do with the actual file type that the email message gets stored as temporarily. Non-IE browsers might not register to open that file type.
The second covers the actual piss-poor rendering Outlook does of the acid test email. Thanks to Dave Greiner from the Email Standards project for providing links and addressing the questions I had in the original post. Once I had a copy of the acid test email I was able to get the bugs officially filed.
I will not be posting any further details on the status of these or other bugs, either now or after we ship, so please don’t ask. I am sorry, but it isn’t standard practice at Microsoft to reveal publicly the status of bugs, and I don’t plan on starting a trend in this particular area. It’s also frankly not my place to comment on bugs on which I am not an expert, especially those that are in areas completely separate from the ones I work on. You’ll have to take my word for it as an honest, standards-loving software developer that I filed them.
Please continue to send feedback in any way you can to Microsoft, and specifically the Outlook team. Here’s hoping for some quality HTML+CSS email rendering in the future.