OWA 2013: Good Enough to Replace Outlook?

By B. K. Winstead, WindowsITPro [Published on 6 Dec 2012]

With the release of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, it's perhaps time again to turn some attention to Outlook Web App (OWA). As usual, the Exchange team devoted some useful development time to providing enhancements to OWA 2013. The new ability for offline mail access has probably received the most attention, but other interesting changes include the dramatically simplified UI and the ability to integrate apps with OWA (which also applies to the Outlook 2013 desktop client). The question naturally arises about whether OWA is good enough to allow companies to abandon Outlook on the desktop in favor of OWA.

First, let's examine the new features a little closer to see what benefits they bring. So, offline access. You can use OWA to read and respond to email even when you have no network connection, which could be great. However, this feature is possible only with the very latest browsers -- Internet Explorer 10, Safari 5, and Chrome 18 -- and enabling offline access is sure to require a good deal of end-user training to avoid security problems. Whether this feature is truly a boon remains to be seen, but in the short term, I suspect many organizations would rather avoid using it.


The new model for integrating apps with Outlook and OWA seems to me one of the most exciting new features in this round, but how well it develops is largely dependent on whether developers get on board and build third-party add-ons. At launch, you'll have the Bing Maps app and a few others; Bing Maps can provide a graphic map and directions for meeting invitations, which can certainly be handy. At the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) 2012, Messageware introduced one of the first third-party Apps for Outlook, Messageware TakeNote, a tool that lets you add notes to messages or senders. If you're into coding yourself, you can learn about developing Outlook apps in the Microsoft article "Mail apps for Outlook."

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Will tablet and Smart phone use be a big part of your OWA 2013 deployment?