OWA for iPad and iPhone available for Office 365 subscripbers

By Jeremy Stanley,

Exchange Online users have a new way to access email on iPhones and iPads.

Microsoft delivered Outlook Web App (OWA) for Apple devices this week, but users need to have an Office 365 subscription and the cloud hosted version of Exchange.

Exchange 2013 server customers will have to wait.

The new application runs natively on iPhone 4S and iPad 2 or later hardware versions. It runs on devices running iOS 6 or later.

"The best thing that I see that it does is that it offers Office 365 customers an easy way to get their mail hooked up to their phone," said Wes Miller, analyst at Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft.

Simply downloading a free app from Apple's App Store and logging in with credentials is much simpler than navigating iOS' system settings, Miller said.

The applications sport a user interface akin to Windows Phone 8 and the Windows 8 tablet app and offer access to Outlook mail and calendars.

The app includes many features users expect from the Outlook experience including easy access to Active Directory contacts, Bing Maps and contact search.

OWA for iPhone and iPad also offers native functions such as push notifications, voice actions and contact synchronization.

If an employee leaves the company or an employee loses a device, IT administrators can wipe email and calendar data from the app, without destroying personal data on the device.

"Exchange admins would like the fact it doesn't use the ActiveSync protocol anymore, something Apple had some issues with resulting in stressed Exchange servers," said Dave Stork, IT architect with OGD IT services, based in the Netherlands.

In early versions of iOS 6.1, users encountered Exchange ActiveSync bug that occured on Exchange Online, hampering performance.

The application will only work if an enterprise's Office 365 subscription is updated to the latest wave of Exchange Online. Subscribers to the E1, E3 and E34 level of Office 365 have access to OWA for iPhone and iPad.

Microsoft plans to offer support for Exchange 2013, Microsoft noted in its blog post. Customers would likely need to apply an update on Exchange 2013 and update to the latest version of the iOS app. There is no timeline when users can expect that, however.

This continues a trend for Microsoft, where it offers features on Office 365 first, then brings it down to the on-premises software, Miller said.

Office Mobile became available for iPhone in June, and it also requires an Office 365 subscription.

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Will tablet and Smart phone use be a big part of your OWA 2013 deployment?