Native functions make Office 365 easier to use.
One advantage of Microsoft is its broad range of products and the strong level of integration among them. This is particularly true with Microsoft’s mobile operating system, Windows Phone and its cloud platform Office 365.
Where Office 365 customers on iPhones and Android devices must install apps to access higher functions of Office 365 (other than basic mail, contacts and calendar) the story is much simpler on a Windows Phone.
Both Exchange and SharePoint are integrated very closely into the core operating system of Windows Phone. When adding an Office 365 email account the phone will recognise it and set up a shortcut to SharePoint Online as well.
Access to SharePoint Online is via the Office Hub which allows you to specify multiple locations. This means that while the phone automatically adds a shortcut to the top level SharePoint Online site, users can also add shortcuts to sites or libraries within the site.
I frequently access the “Sales” site of my company’s SharePoint Online site, for example. I can pin this site directly to the home screen of my phone for quicker access by customising the Start screen. This function is only available for sites – not libraries, lists or individual items and files.
The Office Mobile apps are built right into the phone so I can easily browse document libraries, open documents on my phone, make edits and save them back to SharePoint Online.
The key point here is that for the entire experience I don’t need any additional apps.
The Lync Mobile 2010 application was not available at the time of Windows Phone’s release (Lync itself was only released a month after the phone’s debut). Microsoft released this app on all major mobile platforms around the same time.
The app itself is a free download and is fairly straightforward to use. Voice and video conferencing doesn’t work with Office 365, however that is a limitation of Lync Online as opposed to the application. Customers who run Lync Server 2010 on their own servers are able to use these functions.
It is expected that in the next version of Windows Phone (codenamed “Apollo” and due towards the end of 2012) we will see Lync become integrated with the operating system along with Exchange and SharePoint.
Office 365 administration
Normally users can only perform administrative tasks in Office 365 via a web browser. But sometimes basic functions need to be performed when not near a computer.
I’ve released a free application called Office 365 Mobile Admin which lets Office 365 administrators perform basic functions such as add and delete users, modify user properties, reset passwords and disable accounts. You can download Office 365 Mobile Admin from the Windows Phone Marketplace.
Loryan Strant is a Microsoft Office 365 MVP (Most Valuable Professional). Follow him on Twitter @TheCloudMouth.