Problems with email synchronisation has pushed Microsoft into talks with mobile manufacturers; to iron out problems with Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) and native email apps, and to promote the EAS logo to end-users.
Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) doesn't just get email and calendar appointments onto almost every smartphone from just about every mail service; you can also use it to apply security policies to tablets and smartphones.
EAS is the 'de facto' standard for email synchronistation
However while EAS is proving so popular – Microsoft's Exchange corporate Vice President Rajesh Jha calls it a "de facto standard" – there are some inconsistencies in the way it works and Microsoft is working to make the protocol it licences to so many other companies a bit more standard in use.
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Every handset maker and webmail service implements EAS themselves. There are inconsistencies in what information you can sync on different services and handsets – your calendar won't always be in sync for example, and new versions of Android often introduce bugs in the way Google's Mail client connects to Exchange.
But inconsistencies in how EAS policies are applied can be more than just an inconvenience. When the iPhone 3GS came out, earlier iPhone models stopped receiving Exchange email if the device encryption policy was set. Because they couldn't actually encrypt messages and only the 3GS had the hardware to do the encryption. The problem was that previously the same handsets had accepted that policy and received email when they shouldn't have actually connected.
Getting phone makers to comply with EAS
Microsoft has been running the Exchange ActiveSync logo Program since April 2011; currently the only handsets that have the logo are Windows Phone devices, eight Nokia Symbian phones, the iPhone 3GS and 4 plus the iPad 1 and 2 (all on iOS 4.3). They all use EAS v14 or later, support key mail and calendar features, report back the device details and implement the key password settings like length and the number of wrong passwords allowed, along with remote wipe. The logo doesn't yet cover encryption though.
That's just the first stage though; Exchange general manager Harvindar Bhela told us that Microsoft "is talking to all the phone manufacturers" and will publish more requirements for the logo program and put more emphasis on which devices carry the logo in the future. "It's important to give the phone makers time to comply with the standard first and then add more requirements later", he explained. Once a phone maker has done the work to earn the logo in the first place, presumably they'll be keen to keep it.
It's not clear if Microsoft will go as far as publishing a list of problematic implementations, or even of handsets that implement EAS but don't have the logo, but as more companies use EAS to set security policies for devices users bring to the office, knowing whether those policies are respected by devices will only get more important.