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Good News – It’s ActiveSync; Bad News – It’s ActiveSync

I only change my domain password on a Monday because it gives me at least four rehearsals of using it before I have to remember it over a weekend. Making that change without getting locked out of the network has gotten more complex as devices using Exchange ActiveSync have proliferated. An iPad or Android phone trying to access the network using the password stored in Exchange ActiveSync can easily lock you out of the network before you can get them changed. As a result, I have to remember to put such devices in airplane mode before I change my domain password from my computer. The Mail app in the Windows 8 Modern interface using ActiveSync adds one more place I have to coordinate for password changes.

In many ways it is good that the Mail app uses ActiveSync. Many support staff and mobile end users are already familiar with how to set it up. The information you need is the same as it would be for an iOS or Android device. The learning curve is pretty shallow.

The Win8 Mail app allows you to see new messages in tiles.

Image courtesy MSDN Blogs, Building Windows 8

Another mixed aspect of the Windows 8 Mail app is that it is also a good “all your mail in one place” application. I think people who are not on particularly mobile devices will want to use the Mail app. In addition to combining multiple accounts in one place, being able to display content of new messages on the tile is quite convenient. That could lead to the dark side of having an ActiveSync application on desktops or laptops. The potential problem is that it is still ActiveSync and the password needs to be changed separately. I don’t see a way to get the Mail app to use the domain credentials given during login to authenticate to the Exchange Server as Outlook does. This will add another step, and an unfamiliar one to some, to the password change process.

My favorite computer and network maxim is that there is no such thing as a secure networked computer, only one that has achieved an optimum balance of inconvenience that keeps those with evil intentions out without preventing those with legitimate needs from getting in. Improving that balance from what is achieved by using ActiveSync with the Windows 8 Mail app is well beyond my understanding of how network security is done. Usage with other mobile devices has demonstrated that using it is well within the capabilities of typical knowledge workers. As ActiveSync becomes more widespread, the learning curve should be manageable, but will also need to be managed.

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