Microsoft adds business features to Outlook for iOS, Android

Microsoft has updated Outlook for iOS and Android with several features important to enterprises.

Microsoft has updated Outlook for iOS and Android with several features important to enterprises.

The update made good on a promise to quickly begin adding tools formerly found only in Outlook Web App (OWA), the two-year-old Microsoft program used by corporate employees to retrieve email and appointments on their smartphones and tablets.

Outlook for iOS and Android launched three weeks ago as the replacement for OWA. At the time, Microsoft said it would refresh the app every few weeks and pledged to beef up Outlook with IT-necessary features currently found only in OWA.

At some point, Microsoft will retire OWA and it will be pulled from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

The biggest addition to Outlook Tuesday was PIN locking, which lets enterprise administrators require that mobile devices be locked with a passcode if they're used to grab business email, calendar appointments and other information.

Microsoft said it piggybacked onto iOS's device-level PIN locking rather than add an app-specific PIN, saying that the latter would have required entering a pair of passcodes, calling that "cumbersome." Device-level locking also let Microsoft take advantage of Touch ID, the fingerprint-scanning feature on iPhone 5S and later, as well as iOS 8's built-in encryption, which encrypts all Outlook data stored on the device.

The Android version of Outlook also relies on device-level locking, but unlike the iOS edition, will enforce corporate policies regarding password length and complexity, and the maximum number of allowable unlock attempts before wiping the phone.

Microsoft said that the tools Apple makes available to third-party developers does not allow it to set password length and complexity requirements on Outlook for the iPhone and iPad.

The Redmond, Wash. developer also said it reduced the time necessary for a remote wipe of Outlook, and added support for IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol), letting the app sync messages with services like AOL and Comcast.

Next up on Microsoft's Outlook agenda for enterprises: Support for the company's Intune mobile device management platform, one of the pillars of its mobile monetization strategy, and a migration from Amazon Web Services (AWS) -- where the messages are currently stored -- to Microsoft's own Azure cloud service.

As with other Office apps for iOS and Android, Outlook is free to use for non-commercial purposes. Only subscribers to business-grade Office 365 can use Outlook for work-related tasks.

Outlook for the iPhone and iPad can be downloaded from Apple's App Store; the Android version is available on Google Play.

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