My company recently switched to Office 365 for online collaboration. This is working great for the Windows OS users however we are seeing a large portion of the company switching to Apple iPhone, Apple iPads and Apple Macbook Pros. We had hoped to use the Microsoft versions of the Office 365 components on the Apple devices but have run into limitations that make this a security risk to our organization. Let me give you a few examples.
OneNote is a great tool for collaboration. By default the sharing is linked to the Office 365 accounts of each of our employees. For the Windows OS users, this works great. They open the documents just fine; however, the Mac users are presented with authentication errors and other nonsensical errors depending on which Apple device is in use. Technically it boils down to Microsoft’s decision to not allow OneNote on the Mac or on iOS to support Office 365 accounts. The workaround is a) only allow Apple users to use the Web based version of the tool, or B) to have the person sharing the file to first ask the user if they are on Mac, and then if so, ask them for their personal Microsoft account, and then share the documents or files with the personal account. Or of course Option C:\ to tell the Mac users they have to stop using a Mac and switch to a Windows OS (physically or virtually).
The second security risk is related to Microsoft DRM that we are attempting to use to limit access to sensitive corporate data. Microsoft’s DRM solutions included with Office for Mac 2011 do not work on Apple iOS devices; and will not work outside of our firewalls for the MacBook Pros. Our sales force spends a lot of time in transit and the inability to pull out their smartphone or tablet to access this information is hurting our productivity. The use of a Windows OS running in a VM on the MacBook pros is the only workaround, which has now doubled the cost per device to our organization in terms of licensing an OS for Mac users, not to mention the user experience frustrations this has caused.
The third security hole is the complete lack of support for OneDrive for Business on the MacBook Pros. As none of our Mac users are able to use OneDrive for Business, they are forced to store corporate documents in their personal OneDrive accounts, or resort to other synchronization services like Dropbox, or Box which offer a different set of security requirements than we would prefer to have to deal with.
A fourth security concern is that Microsoft’s DirectAccess solution isn’t available for Mac. We have more than 50% of our organization working remotely and for the Windows users DirectAccess has been a huge help. Our Mac users still require the use of a 3rd party solution, forcing our IT costs to increase. Will we ever see a DirectAccess for OSX? We had tried leveraging Microsoft Forefront Gateway to provide our non Windows OS users the ability to login to a secure portal and access internal resources; however this products discontinuing from Microsoft and the continual flood of helpdesk calls we receive about the tool not being able to detect the version of Java installed on OSX and the subsequent error messages that ensue has made this a less than stellar option.
Moving beyond security, the fact that 100% of the features introduced in Office 365 are unavailable in Office for Mac 2011, combined with the lack of feature parity in key Office applications like Outlook for Mac presents our Mac users with daily headaches that make being productive on Microsoft technology on Apple products to be almost a joke. The Microsoft Office Accreditation for Mac technical training course offered by Microsoft documents more than a 100 key features of the Office suite for Mac that don’t exist, from the mundane examples like Shared Calendars not supporting color tagging, to the frustration inducing “This PowerPoint contains ActiveX controls and will not display correctly on this Mac.” Outlook and Excel, arguably the two most important business tools in the Office suite are excellent examples of how poorly Microsoft has done in crafting a solution for business that support heterogeneous environments. I’ll ignore for now the complete lack of support for Visio and Microsoft Project on the Mac.
Let’s spend a moment and talk about Microsoft Word 2011 for Mac. Create a document with a page orientation of Portrait for Page 1, Landscape for Page 2, and Portrait for Page 3. Try to save the file as a PDF. On the Windows version of Word this works great and the result is 1 PDF file. On the Mac version, this results in 3 individual PDF files. Why?
Microsoft Lync for Mac is another disaster of a Microsoft product when run on Mac OSX. Why can I not copy and paste the content of a message once I’ve hit send? For example if I ask Susan for help and she’s not around, I’d like to be able to copy the request for help that I just sent to Susan and send it to Dave. Is copy and paste really too much to ask? How about a Digital Whiteboard? Nope, not if you’re on Mac OSX. I could go on but it’s like every other Microsoft product for Mac – leave out 90% of the useful features that exist on the Windows version. Until recently the app wasn’t even compatible with OSX 10.9 which had been public for more than 3 months. Perhaps if your developers stopped making duplicate copies of the application on the Windows platform (the modern version and the non-modern version) you would have some more development time to spend on the Mac version.
Another example of cross-platform communication problems with something as simple as emoticon image translations:
The bottom line is that Microsoft’s move to the cloud only works as advertised in environments that are running 100% Windows OS devices including laptops, surface pro tablets, and windows mobile phones. Workarounds like enabling OS virtualization on these Apple platforms is not a viable long-term solution for businesses. We would like to continue using Microsoft technology but as more non-Windows OS based devices come into our environment we are being forced to look to Google and other vendors for software solutions that address the reality that not everyone runs a Windows OS – nor should they be forced to in order to be productive.