Microsoft’s Worldwide Push to Convince Office 365 users to Install Outlook Mobile

Outlook Mobile Is So Much Nicer Than Those Other Clients…

Office 365 Notification MC207028 posted in March announced that users in some markets would see a notice in OWA to tell them that their license covers Outlook Mobile and they can get Outlook on their phone. Microsoft released MC219490 on July 29 to say that the change now applies worldwide, except to government cloud users. I hadn’t seen this before because Microsoft had excluded European Union customers up to now.

MC207028 says: “Many customers are not aware they can get additional functionality and commercial use rights to Outlook mobile as part of their Office 365 and Microsoft 365 services at no extra cost.” This is probably true, but the real meaning of the message is “Hey stupid! Why would you ever use anything but Outlook Mobile to connect to Exchange Online” (said in a much nicer way).

The plan is to start showing notices in OWA and progress to Outlook desktop in the future. If users dismiss the notice it won’t reappear. If they decide to action it, they’ll get a link or scannable code to download Outlook Mobile.

Undoubted #1 Mobile Client for Exchange Online

There’s no doubt that Outlook Mobile is the premier mobile email client for Exchange Online. Apart from supporting the widest degree of email functionality available to any mobile client, Outlook mobile includes deep integration with other components of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, including Microsoft Search, Microsoft 365 Groups, and OneDrive for Business.

Over the last year, Microsoft has added features like support for sensitivity labels, shared mailboxes, and delegate access to increase the functionality gap with other email clients, like the native mail apps bundled with iOS and Android. These clients use Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) to communicate with Exchange Online, and although EAS was a solid connectivity protocol ten years ago, it has aged badly recently. The simple fact is that EAS will never support the necessary API calls to allow third-party mobile mail clients to attain feature parity with Outlook Mobile. Soon you’ll be able to make Outlook Mobile the default email client for iOS 14, but that doesn’t mean that everyone needs to use Outlook Mobile.

Personal Choice

Personal choice is important. In April 2019, Microsoft said that over 100 million people used Outlook Mobile. At that time, Office 365 has 185 million active users. That figure is closer to 270 million today (my estimate) and the growth in the Outlook Mobile base probably tracks Office 365 closely. Even so, some people choose to use EAS- or IMAP4-based clients. This might be because they prefer how those clients work or they like a specific feature, such as the ability to connect to accounts in multiple Office 365 tenants, which is something Outlook Mobile currently can’t do.

It’s reasonable for Microsoft to make tenants aware that Outlook Mobile is included in their licenses, but you’ve got to question why they feel the need to highlight this to end users. From a customer perspective, this is a bad idea. It will cause end users to ask why they see the message and what they should do; it might generate extra demand for support services, and it’s yet another example of Microsoft seeking to communicate directly with end users.

Disabling Outlook Mobile Notices with MobileAppEducationEnabled

Fortunately, Microsoft has provided a way for tenants to suppress the notices with a simple update to the Exchange Online organization configuration to set the MobileAppEducationEnabled switch to $False.

The name of the switch is indicative of a feeling that Microsoft needs to educate the Office 365 user base about the goodness of Outlook Mobile. It would be better if Microsoft concentrated on developing functionality that solved real problems for customers instead of pushing their software through all possible means.


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