Limitations of Exchange ActiveSync and the need for improvement

Exchange ActiveSync is the industry standard when it comes to using Exchange email on mobile devices. But it comes with its shortcomings.

Recently we had business need for several people to use the shared calendar functionality of Exchange. Our colleagues needed the shared calendar to be integrated into their smartphone’s calendar along with their own one. Yes it works flawlessly in OWA and in Outlook but when it comes to ActiveSync – things get pretty hard.

None of today’s ActiveSync clients support shared calendar functionality. That counts even Windows Phone and Windows 10 Technical Preview Mail app. Actually the problem is in Exchange ActiveSync itself, which does not support that delegated functionality, by design.

If you need to have someone’s shared calendar in your smartphone there are two solutions:
1) Add the second ActiveSync account – you need to know someone’s password.
2) Use third-party app – giving your password to someone raises security concerns.
Neither of above are good solutions I think and you agree, I hope.

The functionality is hugely demanded everywhere though. There are assistants who need to have access to their boss’s calendar, there are shared corporate calendars and so on. And while today’s smartphones are so feature-rich devices, such limitations are huge letdown and hinder the otherwise great Exchange experience in mobile world.

There is not much time left until Exchange 2016 (supposedly that will be the name) comes to life, so this is the very time for Microsoft to fix the issue. Either ActiveSync needs to be improved and expanded to support the shared and delegated functionality of Exchange Server or we should have Outlook Anywhere client in the mobile world too which comes with fully flavored Exchange functionality.

On the other hand, I totally understand the need for compliance and the role of ActiveSync in that way. I think Microsoft it pushing ActiveSync heavily by including it in Outlook 2013 and Windows Mail App. And EAS honed over the years and gives pretty neat policy enforcement possibilities and functionality to secure the access to mailbox from any device, anytime.
If it is not possible for Microsoft to deliver the same on mobile devices with Outlook Anywhere client, then improving the ActiveSync functionality is the way to go.

Even if radical changes are needed, Microsoft should not be stopped from doing it as the Exchange experience should be full-featured across the board. Competitors like Apple and Google will quickly integrate the new functionality in iOS and Android as Exchange has huge user base and no one wants to lose customers.