Microsoft Adds New Enterprise Protection, Management to Outlook Mobile

“The main thing we want to accomplish is balance,” Microsoft Vice President Gaurav Sareen told eWEEK. “We want Outlook to be trusted by IT and loved by users.” Sounds simple, but this is not a trivial task to accomplish.

Outlook.mobile

Despite what a number of messaging- and chat-oriented proponents keep insisting, email isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, use of email is growing, just like virtually every other sector in IT.

It’s like Sly and the Family Stone once sang: Different strokes for different folks. There is a place for all types of communication channels in business, ranging from 1:1 in-persons to conference calls, to video chats, to messaging, to email—to whatever. All of these are being used, and they will continue to be used.

You may not know this, but despite Windows, Azure, Word, Office 365 and all the other products Microsoft makes, Outlook—either as an installed app or as a web app—is the company’s single most-utilized product. Outlook.com, launched in 2012, is a key component of Microsoft Office and Office 365. According to information eWEEK obtained Sept. 25 from Microsoft, Office 365 has 135 million commercial users and 31.4 million consumer subscribers, and Outlook for iOS and Android is now used on more than 100 million devices. Outlook Mobile for Android and iOS has been available for three years.

While there is information available on WindowsCentral.com and other sources indicating that Microsoft counts about 1.2 billion people using all or part of the Office/Outlook package in the installed version, Microsoft doesn't break out sales numbers by individual products anymore.

Launched in 1996 as Hotmail—Remember That?

Outlook.com in total is a web-based suite of webmail, contacts, tasks and calendaring services. As one of the world's first webmail services, it was founded in 1996 as Hotmail.

Outlook for iOS and Android offers all the key features of Office 365 for desktops/laptops in one place so users can connect, organize and get things done wherever they are, all while protecting their organization’s sensitive information, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Outlook Gaurav Sareen told eWEEK.

“The main thing we want to accomplish is balance,” Sareen said. “We want Outlook to be trusted by IT and loved by users.”

Sounds simple, but this is not a trivial task to accomplish.

With that in mind, Microsoft knew it had to do more on the security and compliance side to enable more trust by IT departments, especially in this day and age of unrelentingly malicious cyber-attacks and phishing scams. So this is what the news entails on the enterprise side.

Most of these new functions will become available to Outlook/Office users later this year and early in 2019. Here are highlights of the new capabilities for enterprise in Outlook Mobile:

New Enterprise Information Protection, Deployment Functionality

  • Easily apply sensitivity labels to emails:  Users will soon be able to classify and label Outlook mobile emails to help ensure that sensitive information is handled in compliance with company policies. The company introduced Microsoft Information Protection native labeling in Outlook for iOS and Android to help enforce a common set of protection policies and actions across Microsoft 365 apps.  For example, administrators can specify custom sensitivity labels such as “General” or “Company Confidential” with corresponding actions, such as adding a footer to emails or encrypting emails, respectively. As a user, you will then be able to add a “Company Confidential” label to the email to ensure it can only be opened by recipients who are authorized to decrypt the message. Your administrator could also set up a policy to allow you to change a sensitivity email label if necessary but require a justification to do so for tracking and compliance purposes.
  • Microsoft’s goal, Sareen said, is to start rolling out this feature to Office 365 commercial customers by the end of the year, initially in preview.

New Tools to Simplify Deployment, Management of Outlook Mobile

To enable organizations to get their employees quickly set up on their secure mobile email and calendar solution, the company is adding new app configuration capabilities for Outlook mobile. They are as follows:

  • Ensure that only corporate accounts are added to Outlook mobile: Microsoft recently rolled out a new experience to help ensure that adding only corporate accounts is straightforward and to help mitigate the risk of employees using personal accounts on company devices. For example, administrators can specify that only one corporate email account and OneDrive for Business account are allowed in Outlook mobile.
  • Scale deployments and enforce consistency:  Administrators will soon be able to push specific Outlook mobile app configuration settings, such as the on/off state for syncing or saving contacts, biometrics such as Touch ID, block external images and MailTips as well mail options such as Focused Inbox settings to their users.  Standardizing these settings will help simplify and scale the deployment of Outlook mobile while ensuring that end users have a consistent experience.
  • Enable faster account setup: Administrators will soon be able to push Outlook mobile account setup configurations for modern authentication capable accounts. This will ensure that employees use the correct work account setup information so that they are up and running with Outlook mobile in no time.  When setup is as simple as entering a password, there are fewer calls to your helpdesk and securing your mobile workforce is fast and easy. This feature is already available for Exchange on-premises customers for accounts that use basic authentication.
  • A new app configuration policy interface in Microsoft Intune: A new app configuration policy interface in the Microsoft Intune console will, to start with, support the ability to push account set up details for Exchange on-premises customers using basic authentication. In the coming months, Microsoft plans to continue to enhance the policy settings in this interface to manage the Outlook mobile feature settings, such as the ability to save or sync contacts and other app configuration capabilities.

Designed for All-Day Use: New Ways to Help Users Connect, Organize

  • Create and join a Microsoft Teams meeting in Outlook mobile: As customers continue to use Microsoft Teams for collaboration, they can natively integrate Teams meetings in Outlook. Users will soon be able to add an online Teams Meeting option to calendar events and join a Teams Meeting right from Outlook mobile. The goal is to introduce this capability to Outlook mobile early in 2019.
  • Office Lens technology in Outlook mobile: Ever been to a conference and had to keep track of numerous business cards? With Office Lens intelligent technology in Outlook mobile, you will be able to simply snap a picture of the card, and the contacts details will get automatically saved in Outlook. Customers also get the confidence that the images will be used in compliance with the companies’ app protection policies and device camera settings will be respected. This feature is coming soon to Outlook for Android.
  • Favorite notifications help you stay connected with the people who are important to you: There are some people in our lives whose communication should take priority such as your boss, your significant other or your kid and you may want to respond to them in a timely manner. You will soon have the option set your notifications to “Favorites” so you’re notified only when they send you an email or calendar event. Favorite Notifications should start to roll out to Office 365 consumer and commercial customers around the end of the calendar year.
Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...