Microsoft Brings Outlook Web Apps to iOS

They have native application support for hardware.

Outlook -- at least a form of it -- has finally come to iOS, Apple's hugely-popular mobile operating system.

It comes with numerous limitations, however, including the fact that companies using the latest version of Exchange can't use it.

It still represented progress, though, when Microsoft last week released its Outlook Web App e-mail solutions for Apple's iPhone and iPad devices.

The iPhone app and the iPad app are offered at no extra cost and can be downloaded from the online Apple Store. However, in order to use the apps to get e-mail, organizations or individuals have to have an Office 365 subscription for Exchange Online. In addition, the Exchange Online service needs to be running its latest update, which was released in February. Microsoft describes a way to check if that's true at this page.

Organizations using Exchange Server 2013 will have to wait to use these apps. Microsoft plans to deliver Outlook Web Apps for iPhone and iPad that tap Exchange Server 2013 "at a future date," which wasn't disclosed, according to Microsoft's announcement.

The Outlook Web Apps require iOS 6 or higher, plus certain Apple hardware, to run. Microsoft indicated that they require an iPhone 4S or higher version or an iPad 2 or higher version.

Outlook Web Apps for iPhone and iPad can be used both online and offline, according to Microsoft. Messages can be composed, read or deleted while offline, and contacts and calendar items can be edited while offline. The Outlook Web Apps enable calendar sharing and meeting scheduling.

Outlook Web Apps also work with Microsoft's "apps for Outlook," which are helper applications, such as mapping, social networking and meeting organizer programs that work with the e-mail client. A list of those apps can be found in the Office Store here.

Contacts get automatically synced in Outlook Web Apps, which supports caller ID for phone calls, although that capability can be controlled by IT pros. Outlook Web Apps also support Exchange Online's information rights management security approach, which is a way of categorizing the sensitivity of corporate communications.

User access to Outlook Web Apps gets controlled in IT environments through the Exchange Administration Center. IT pros can remotely wipe Outlook Web App data from controlled devices. However, the device has to be turned on for this remote wipe capability to work.

Outlook Web Apps are considered to be applications in contrast to browser-based solutions. Consequently, they have better integration with the device's hardware, according to Microsoft. The integration helps with some features. Examples of such benefits from "native" application support for hardware in Outlook Web Apps include improvements in storing log-in credentials, enabling push notifications, allowing meeting reminders to pop up "even when the app is closed," voice controls support, synchronization of Outlook contacts and the ability to remotely wipe Outlook contents from a device, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft has native apps for mobile devices and apps that run in browsers, so it can be confusing. For its Windows Phone, Microsoft offers its Outlook Mobile "native" e-mail app that uses the Exchange Active Sync protocol. Last month, Microsoft released its Office 365 App for iOS devices, which is a bundle of applications that include Excel, PowerPoint and Word, but not Outlook. The Office 365 App for iOS is designed for Apple iPhones, but Microsoft recommends using its Office Web Apps for Apple iPads.

Office Web Apps are browser-based cousins to Microsoft Office applications, such as Excel OneNote, PowerPoint and Word. However, Office Web Apps lack a lot of the complex functionality found in the Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft demonstrated some Office Web Apps improvements to come for iOS, Android and Windows tablets at TechEd North America back in June. For instance, the coauthoring collaboration capabilities in Office Web Apps will become more of a real-time experience for end users.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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