Microsoft unleashes Office on mobile devices! What does this mean for enterprise IT?

By now you've seen all the great news about Microsoft Office on mobile devices. You can use the mobile Office apps to edit and create documents for free; they plug directly into Dropbox; they work on the iPhone now; there's a public beta of the Android version; and on a related note, Dropbox is finally coming to Windows Phone.

By now you’ve seen all the great news about Microsoft Office on mobile devices.

You can use the mobile Office apps to edit and create documents for free; they plug directly into Dropbox; they work on the iPhone now; there’s a public beta of the Android version; and on a related note, Dropbox is finally coming to Windows Phone.

This is awesome news for consumers. Everyone agrees that a new Microsoft has arrived over the last several months, and we all benefit. I marveled yesterday morning as I pulled a document out of Dropbox, edited it in Word for iPad, and then seamlessly saved it back to Dropbox.

However, looking at this from the enterprise mobility management angle, there is a catch. If you’re in charge of making sure your data doesn’t end up in unapproved locations like consumer Dropbox accounts, then the mobile Office apps are just like any other apps that connect to random cloud services. In this case, you have all the usual ways to keep them from becoming a liability: block the traffic on the network; use MDM policies to blacklist them from users’ devices; or use MAM policies to make sure that data can’t leak from other managed apps into the Office apps.

If you do want to sanction the Office mobile apps but still don’t want data to get into Dropbox (or consumer OneDrive accounts, for that matter), you’d have to use iOS MDM to deploy the apps as a managed apps, configure them with a VPN, and again, block the traffic on the network. Fortunately the Office mobile apps can connect to Sharepoint folders, so there are still alternate corporate data repository options available.

The other option for managing the Office apps is to use Microsoft Intune. Intune is the only EMM platform that will have control over the built-in sharing features.

This is naturally frustrating for other EMM vendors, who won’t be able to provide the same secure and convenient interaction between their own mobile content apps and the Office mobile apps. Some EMM vendors have alternative document editing apps as parts of their MAM ecosystems, but they’re going up against the real Office apps, so... let’s just say that could challenging.

Will Microsoft ever open up the Office mobile apps so they could integrate with the mobile content apps and MAM ecosystems of other EMM vendors? That would be giving up a major unique selling point for Intune. (This could be also be a major test of just how important mobile Office really is.)

I don’t want to take anything away from this week’s news—it’s big day for Microsoft and for consumers. But on the EMM side, there’s no doubt that Microsoft is staking a major claim.

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F Microsoft and InTune as the only option. Monopoly. More reasons to stay away.


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