Microsoft threw open its Outlook Web App to users of its lifetime rival Apple in their iPhones and iPads as well. Moreover, this OWA app is available from the Apples App Store for download for free.
A stunning move by the rivals!
Apple took the lead in the devices market with the iOS to run them and is now closely fought by Samsung with the now open Android OS in its phones. But users of email have been familiar with Exchange and Outlook for quite a long time now – even longer than the iPhone and the iPad. With the, it was a long felt need of these users, especially the iOS users, to have access to their familiar email applications accessible from these non-windows devices. While there was already an app from the Android apps store (Google Play) for this OWA, it was a question in debate whether a native app would be made available for the iOS users. While OWA was certainly accessible through the Safari browser, a native app would make a huge difference to the user experience. Microsoft has finally answered positively to the aspirations of a large subset of email users who want to keep their device and still access their mails in a familiar fashion.
How does Microsoft benefit?
This move is also aimed at increasing the reach of the O365 online services offered by Microsoft. Exchange mail is a vital component of the O365 offering and has gained substantial ground recently with the launch of Office 2013. Now users of Apple's devices also can subscribe to Microsoft's online services, especially the Exchange Online and benefit from the offering. The $2 offering for the light users of mails are given access to their mails through the OWA with a storage of 1 GB in the cloud. So, this attempt might be a subtle strategy of Microsoft to break in to the Apple users market.
How does Apple benefit?
Apple might also benefit from the move as it can aim at selling its devices to users who tend to use MS Exchange for their mails and have always felt a need for a native app for easy access and so had put off their purchase decisions until one arrived.
iPhone and iPad's OWA app lets one know how many items are unseen (not unread) from the last time the user opened the app. When tapped, it opens to a log in screen for the O365 subscriber. Once logged in, an icon at the bottom left corner, when tapped, blows up and allows the user to switch between mails, calendars, people (contacts) and options to customize the app. (Credentials are stored once in the device and then needs no login thereafter). It offers almost a similar experience to the users of both the kind of devices. Holding the same icon (at the bottom left of the screen) for a little longer initiates a voice input session for the user. The folder pane, the list view and the reading pane are available to the user (though only two are open by default in iPad and one by default in iPhone but can be further opened) giving him/her a familiar user experience through the interface.
Even IRM protected emails can be created and accessed through the app. Out of office messages and the most productivity enhancing Mail tips are also available at the new mail composing window. Even apps for Outlook like Bing maps are available for the users on the app bar. Search can also be initiated from within the OWA. Offline access to mails and the ability to compose mails even one is not connected to the internet are some of the most welcome features for the users of this app.
Calendars with day, week, month and agenda views categorized by using various colours are all available in the OWA app. New appointments can be created and the Scheduling assistant can help in knowing the availability of a one or more individuals for a meeting in a given time slot on a given day. Event locations can also be added using Bing maps. Even reminders pop up even when the app is closed.
OWA contacts can be synced to the device's address book and can be controlled by the Exchange administrator.
Out of Office (OOO) messages, automatic replies and signatures can be set in the OWA. A remote wipe of the contents in the device can also be done by the administrator when situation warrants it.
Note: This OWA is useful only if the user has a live O365 subscription. Normal Exchange on premises users might have to wait.