Everyone got all excited yesterday with the announcement that Exchange 2013 Service Pack 1 (SP1) was available for download together with updates for Exchange 2010 SP3 and Exchange 2007 SP3 to allow those versions to play nicely with (but not be installed on) Windows 2012 R2 DCs and GCs. Microsoft also announced Office 2013 Service Pack 1, including the update necessary for Outlook 2013 to make use of the new MAPI over HTTP protocol. Over the long term, MAPI over HTTP will become the de facto connectivity standard for MAPI clients to Exchange servers, but that’s another day’s work…
Although Outlook Web App for Devices (or OWA for iOS as it’s sometimes called) received a minor update in terms of its new-found ability to display Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policy prompts, I doubt that this will excite the on-premises Exchange community, who would have much rather seen an announcement of formal support for connection of the app in on-premises deployments. That didn’t happen, so we remain in a situation where formal support is only available when OWA for Devices is used with Office 365. You can make the app work with on-premises servers, but it’s unsupported.
Some reasons why this situation exists might be gleaned from the TechNet article “Configuring Push Notifications Proxying for OWA for Devices” last updated in December 2013. This article explains:
“Enabling push notifications for OWA for Devices (OWA for iPhone and OWA for iPad) for an on-premises deployment of Microsoft Exchange 2013 lets a user receive updates on the Outlook Web App icon on his or her OWA for iPhone and OWA for iPad indicating the number of unseen messages in the user’s inbox. If push notifications aren’t configured and enabled, a user with OWA for Devices has no way of knowing that unseen messages are in the inbox without launching the app. When a new message is available, the OWA for Devices badge is updated on the user’s device and looks like the following badge. “
Push notifications are what makes the little number light up on the OWA for Devices icon to indicate the presence of new messages. The article explains that push notifications are achieved by subscribing to the Office 365 notification service, something that is probably automatic for Office 365 tenant. Apparently, if you run Exchange 2013 CU3 or later and have a hybrid connection to Office 365, you also subscribe to the notification service, which was news to me.
The article uses the following diagram to illustrate the flow of notifications. The mention of a third party notification service is interesting – I assume that this is Apple’s Push Notification Service, the use of which by Office 365 to signal the arrival of new messages to iOS devices would make sense. You’d assume that OWA for Devices on Android (should the much-rumored and natural evolution of OWA for Devices appear) would then use Google’s equivalent Cloud Messaging service for the same purpose.
Perhaps the use of the third-party notification service is the component that makes it difficult to support OWA for Devices in pure on-premises deployments. It would certainly seem easier for a major player like Office 365 to make the necessary arrangements to push notifications to services run by Apple and/or Google than it would be for individual companies. If this is true, then Microsoft might have to come up with another way of pushing notifications to devices before everything would work nicely in an on-premises deployment.
All of this is pure speculation on my part. Kind of par for the course…
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