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Android and iOS Outlook Apps Get Management Controls

New IT controls for Microsoft's Outlook apps for Android and iOS devices have been announced.

The new Outlook apps, providing mail, contacts and calendar access, were released late last month, with the Android version still at the "preview" stage. Although the apps are just a couple of weeks old, Microsoft now updates them "every few weeks." Its Outlook app releases this week include security enhancements for end users, as well as some added controls for IT departments managing Android and iOS devices.

New IT Controls
IT pros can now require passwords for using Outlook apps on Android and iOS devices via Exchange ActiveSync. The enforcement mechanism consists of compelling the end user to set up a personal identification number (PIN) to get e-mail through Outlook. This enforcement process takes place at the device level, rather than at the app level, to smooth over the user experience, according to Microsoft's announcement.

Enforcement at the device level permits access via a single PIN, whereas enforcement through the app level sometimes requires entering two PINs to access e-mail, Microsoft explained, which can be "cumbersome." A device-level PIN also better supports other features such as "native device encryption, TouchID on iOS and Smart Lock on Android," according to the announcement.

Password enforcement works differently on Android devices compared with iOS devices due to the controls made available by Google and Apple, Microsoft's announcement explained. In essence, Apple's devices include built-in encryption, while Android devices will just check if passwords are properly set and will "encourage storage encryption." IT pros get more control options with Android devices. They can set Office 365 and Exchange policies on "password length and complexity requirements and the number of allowable screen-lock attempts before wiping the phone," according to Microsoft.

Microsoft also speeded up the app-level wipe capability with the new Outlook app releases. IT pros can wipe out e-mail, contacts and calendar files used for business purposes while not destroying personal apps and data on an Android and iOS device, and that can now be done "within seconds," Microsoft indicated. Such a wipe also gets rid of data stored in a cloud service used with the Outlook apps.

The new Outlook apps now support the ability to synchronize mail from other e-mail service providers that use the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), such as "AOL.com and Comcast.net." The Outlook apps use IMAP's IDLE feature to get mailbox changes. However, if IDLE isn't supported by the mail service, then "Outlook will sync every few minutes," Microsoft explained.

Microsoft's announcement indicated that the company is planning to add more IT management and security features to its Outlook apps "over the coming weeks and months." In particular, Microsoft plans to add Intune support for Outlook apps, as well as the ability to move an Outlook service running on Amazon Web Services to the Microsoft Azure service.

Office 365 Document Security
In a separate announcement, Microsoft also talked about some of the data protection services it provides across platforms for its Office applications supported by Office 365 services. For those persons wanting to receive encrypted Office 365 messages on Android or iOS devices, Microsoft now has Office 365 Message Encryption viewer apps, which were released today at the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store.

The Office 365 Message Encryption service, part of the company's Azure cloud service offerings, will get some enhancements in the second quarter of this year. At that time, Microsoft plans to roll out the ability to expire messages according to set time intervals. In addition, the company plans to add a capability that will "revoke access from certain recipients once the encrypted message is viewed." Lastly, Microsoft is planning to add a button to its Outlook Web App that senders can use to encrypt a message.

Microsoft's Information Rights Management (IRM) service, a document protection scheme that Microsoft offers to help control the dispersal of corporate information, has now been enabled for documents stored on OneDrive for Business, Microsoft announced today. OneDrive for Business is Microsoft's cloud storage service for organizations that's based on SharePoint Online technology.

Microsoft is aiming to extend its IRM protection capabilities to e-mail on "all platforms." A future IRM integration will be brought to Office applications running across various operating system platforms. Microsoft's announcement laid out the roadmap as follows:

  • Office apps for iPhone and iPad will start supporting IRM in summer of 2015.
  • Office for Mac will support IRM in its first release in second half of CY2015.
  • Office apps for Android will support IRM in second half of 2015
  • IRM will be enabled out of the box in Universal Office apps and Outlook for Windows 10.
  • We are also working hard to enable IRM in the newly released Outlook app for iOS and Android and more details will follow soon.

Outlook App Feature Updates
This week's Outlook app releases for Android and iOS devices also included a few feature enhancements for end users. It's now possible to specify what happens with certain swipe gestures when organizing e-mail collections, and users can also create and name their own folders for e-mail archive purposes. They just have to make a few Settings changes to make that happen.

It's also now possible for iOS users to turn off the Outlook app's default behavior of organizing e-mail threads into "conversation" views. Instead, e-mails can just arrive as individual messages, if that's wanted. Microsoft plans to add that capability to its Outlook app for Android devices in a future release.

New features will be coming with later Outlook app releases. For instance, Microsoft is planning to add support for "local syncing of contacts." It also plans to expand language support. Lastly, it is planning a "general availability" release its Outlook app for Android devices, moving it out of the preview stage, although it's not clear when that will occur.

About the Author

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

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