Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Nothing says "I vaguely appreciate you in a professional manner" quite like a Starbucks gift card. It's great for coworkers because Starbucks cafes are everywhere, and you don't actually have to spend time thinking about a personalized gift, or how you might go about giving the gift of actually good coffee.
Starbucks and Microsoft are capitalizing on that with the launch Wednesday of an Outlook add-in that lets users easily send those ubiquitous gift cards to one another in an email. Users have to install the add-in, then connect to a Starbucks account, which they also need. After that, they can pull up a sidebar that makes it easy to add a gift card to future emails.
People can also use the add-in also to set up a meeting at a nearby Starbucks, so they can use all of the gift certificates they've undoubtedly saved up.
The companies announced plans for the add-in at Microsoft's Build developer conference, as an example of how third parties could integrate with Microsoft Office as a developer platform. They're natural partners -- both are based in the Seattle area (Microsoft even serves Starbucks at its cafeterias.)
To entice people to use the new add-in, Starbucks has said that users who send a gift card through Outlook will be eligible for a $5 card of their own for a limited time. Office 365 and Office Online users can install the add-in by clicking here, while on-premises Exchange customers can follow a list of steps laid out here.
Right now, it's only available for Outlook 2013 and 2016 on Windows and Outlook Online on the web. Microsoft said that it's working to bring add-in support to Outlook for Mac and Outlook Mobile in the future.
Unfortunately, there's not yet a button that allows users to respond to Starbucks meeting requests with "how about we go to this better coffee shop nearby?" Other third parties can develop for Office, though, so that may be possible if another developer decides to take up the cause.