Exchange ActiveSync logo program launches

Great news: the Exchange team at Microsoft has launched a logo compliance program for Exchange ActiveSync devices.

Many years ago, I worked at Intergraph when they were in the process of going all-in with Windows NT. This was a risky move for them, because up to that point all of Intergraph’s revenue came from the sale of UNIX-based software and hardware. INGR owned its own microprocessor (the Clipper, which was revolutionary for its time), made its own workstations, and in general had a pretty solid vertically-integrated business model. But I digress.

One of the products I worked on was called Product Model Review. It allowed multiple engineers to walk through the same 3-D model at the same time over a LAN or Internet connection. Everyone saw whatever the "driver" was looking at, and the driver could pull up product data from an associated product data modeling (PDM) database. It was hot stuff at the time; it was one of Intergraph’s first shipping Windows NT apps, too. I wanted to do something unique with it, so I grabbed a copy of the "Designed for Windows NT" logo requirements (sadly, I can’t find them online) and got started.

Some of the requirements were simple, some weren’t applicable, and some were really, really hard. In the end, though, I was able to make the program logo-worthy, although INGR never submitted it for formal testing. Naturally I thought of this experience when I saw the announcement of the new EAS program.

Exchange ActiveSync has become the de facto standard for mobile device sync. Microsoft’s competitors– Apple and Google in mobile devices, IBM Lotus in messaging software– use it, which is a pretty good sign of its standard-ness. Microsoft has done a good job of evangelizing and licensing the protocol (something that I’m sure caused a bit of hate and discontent among the Windows Mobile team as they saw Exchange sync, a major competitive advantage at the time, migrating to other devices).

The problem with EAS, though, is that licensing the protocol doesn’t mean that vendors will implement it properly. If you look back on my first review of iOS EAS support, for example, you can see that Apple missed several key EAS features. They did somewhat better in iOS 3.x, and have gotten better still in iOS 4, but there are still holes. The same is true for the various ODM and third-party implementations of EAS for Android, Symbian, and so on. It’s great to have a standard, don’t get me wrong, but it’s more great (great-er? more greatic?) if you can see who follows the standard and to what degree.

Microsoft made a stab at this problem last year with the release of a table showing EAS feature support by vendor. However, the table didn’t really provide enough information for companies that wanted to specify devices for their employees, and it was difficult to compare and contrast features among different firmware revisions of different devices.

Enter the EAS logo program. Vendors will use the test plan to check their devices for compliance, then submit them to a third-party test lab for certification. The announcement outlines some specific EAS features that ODMs and software vendors must support, including preserving reply/forward state, correctly supporting HTML mail, and dealing with calendar invitations properly.

Device management policies are not discussed much in the announcement (apart from the requirement to support remote wipe and password policies.) Because Windows Phone 7 is listed as fully compliant, that gives you some idea of exactly which policies are required, though I have not yet found a complete test matrix online. For example, WP7 doesn’t support policies that disable Bluetooth, SMS, or the onboard device camera, so I’m guessing that these are not yet part of the logo test plan.

The logo program is especially topical right now because an increasing number of enterprises are throwing up their hands in frustration and allowing employees to pick their own mobile devices instead of trying to enforce a corporate standard. The latest example is Clorox, but there are many other places where the new standard is "bring your own device." Having a logo certification program will help simplify device management for the Exchange admins while helping end users avoid the awful feeling of buying a device and then finding out it won’t work properly.

I have a list of questions about the logo, and the associated requirements, that I’ll be discussing with the Exchange team at TEC 2011 next week. Expect more on this in a future UPDATE column once I get some actual answers.

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