Outlook for Mac 2016 15.x – Repeated password prompts issue

I have been a Microsoft Office user on the Mac for nearly 3 years now at my workplace and for the last 6-8 months, I have been plagued by repeated password prompts on Outlook 2016 for my Work Exchange account. The sad part is that it just refuses to connect even after putting in the credentials. It seems to happen mostly when connected on the office network and the older Outlook 2011 app does not suffer from this problem. It seems to be a pretty common issue given the number of threads on the Microsoft support forums.

The issue was not present in the initial releases of the Outlook 2016 app and in the last few releases it has started prompting me with the Office 365 sign in page. The issue seems to stem from a conflict with Keychain access on the recent Mac versions, and the only reliable solution I have found is to delete the Exchange related keychain entries as suggested in this thread.

Open up Mac Keychain tool.

Choose “Login”

Remove *ALL* (delete) references to:

“Exchange”

“Microsoft Office Identities Cache 2”

“@<something>” that has a type of “MicrosoftOffice15**”

“Microsoft Office Identities Settings 2”

“MSOpenTEch.ADAL.<something>”

Source: Outlook for Mac 15.x – Repeated password prompts still an issue … – Microsoft Community

Update: Received this tweet from the Outlook for Mac Principal Lead Programmer, Alessio, promising a fix in the 15.31 update in Feb 2017. So, keeping my fingers crossed.

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A Tale of 3 App Stores

I setup my company’s app store accounts for iOS, Android and Windows last year and have been managing them for over a year now. The journey has been quite interesting, starting from signing up for the accounts to switching to a MacBook Air last April for iOS development. Here are a few observations on the journey so far:

  • The signup process is pretty simple for Android and Windows and the cost is also minimal. Apple on the other hand has a comprehensive process if you opt to setup a company account that allows you to have development team members. Plus they are the costliest of the lot at $99 per year.
  • For all the flak that Android draws for its developmental difficulties, its app store management tools are the best. you can easily setup a decentralized account granting access on a per app basis to different team members. This makes it very convenient and easy to work with multiple development partners in case of an enterprise.
  • Windows Store unfortunately is on the other end of the spectrum with no support for any kind of team members. So, the account manager is left to do all the app listings and package uploads.
  • Apple is somewhere in between, allowing team members, but not providing app level access controls. So, one development partner could potentially look at the others’ work. Plus, the main account P12 certificate needs to be shared if you want to allow anyone other than the account owner to upload apps.
  • Alpha and beta testing is also very simple on Android where you can just upload the package, setup a Google Group to manage the testers and setup the process.
  • Testing for iOS is also fairly easy now that TestFlight is integrated into iTunes Connect. However, if you want to allow external testers then your app needs to go through a review process.
  • Windows Store does not seem to offer any testing support at the moment.
  • On the store management app front, Apple seems to be the only one offering an iTunes Connect app that lets you monitor your account. Nothing equivalent for Android or Windows so far.

Overall, Android or more specifically the Google Play Store seems to be the easiest to manage with a decentralized enterprise account while Windows Store involves a lot of administrative overhead, with iOS closer to the Play Store. Let’s see if the situation improves with Windows 10 over the next one year.

Microsoft one ups Google+ for photos

Just got the latest update for the OneDrive app and saw the new tags section that tries to classify photos automatically based on content. Tags range from #building to #group. It is reasonably accurate too, though I don’t take too kindly to baby photos being tagged #dog & #animal. Either ways, good to see a feature like this make it to an app rather than having a research lab project having its thunder stolen by a competitor’s published app (Hyperlapse from Instagram did pretty much this).

A month with Windows Phone 8.1 on the Lumia 720

I installed the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview on my Lumia 720 as soon as it was out and the new features bring it up to par with Android and iOS. While the overall experience was pretty positive, there were a few downsides. Most notably, the battery life seemed to take a hit. Previously, the phone used to last 2 days comfortably on a single charge, but the 8.1 update had me reaching for the charger well before the end of the second day. That said, the 2000 mAh battery on the Lumia 720 ensures that you can comfortably use it heavily throughout a single day and not worry about running out of juice even with the 8.1 update.

The 8.1 update also pretty much nullifies the utility of the notification centre. So, if you were accustomed to using the notification centre to view facebook notifications without installing the facebook (as buggy as ever), then you’re out of luck. Of course, since the final Windows Phone 8.1 update is not rolled out for most of the phones, we can expect the situation to improve once the apps are updated to take advantage of the action centre and better integrate with the 8.1 update.

Apart from this, I also noticed issues with the kid corner feature. There were times when the phone used to freeze on the kid corner after bringing it out of my pocket and only a soft reset would fix the issue. Disabling the kid corner seemed to fix the issue. There have also been issues with the Exchange mail not updating properly and showing error messages within the mail app. Whatsapp also has issues with the action centre, and the clearing the notifications did not update the live tile or glance\home screen counter. In fact Whatsapp was temporarily pulled from the Windows Store, but is again available albeit showing a warning if you are on Windows Phone 8.1.

Cortana is also a pretty useful addition and speech recognition is certainly better than Siri for Indian accents, and almost as good as Google voice. The only odd bit is that the quiet hours feature is available only when Cortana is enabled, and that requires you to switch the phone region and language to US.

At the end of the day, the Windows Phone 8.1 update is a solid one and the new features outweigh the hiccups which are sure to be fixed in the final build and Nokia’s Cyan update. Moreover, the 8.1 update also takes care of limited storage space on Windows Phones as it allows you to use SD cards as an extension of internal storage and install apps, download content and store music, images & videos on it. It is interesting to see Microsoft take the very opposite approach of Google who opted to practically nuke the utility of external storage with the KitKat update. Plus, with the developer preview program, WIndows Phone users can get the latest OS releases without depending on OEMs or carriers a la iOS, and very much unlike the situation with Android.

Microsoft has in fact leapfrogged Android and iOS in a few key areas with the 8.1 update, and the future sure looks interesting with iOS 8 loosening a lot of restrictions.

Apple doing to software what Microsoft did to hardware?

Now that Apple has announced that OS X updates will be free going forward, and many of its first party apps like iWork are going to be free with new devices, Microsoft seems to have its task cut out. Many people seem to think that this move by Apple will really hurt Microsoft. In some ways Apple is trying to commoditize software the way Microsoft commoditized hardware over the last 2 decades. However, there are a few key points that not many have mentioned:

  1. Microsoft has given away major OS updates for free. E.g. Windows XP SP2. In a way, the Apple move was preempted by the free Windows 8.1 update.
  2. Microsoft is a past master of bundling free software with its OS. Remember Internet Explorer vs Netscape? Or more recently, Office being given away with Windows RT.
  3. Apple hardware remains luxury items, and free OS upgrades are not going to make budget conscious people switch from Windows to Apple devices. That said, the real threat comes when people realize that a tablet meets their requirements and is probably cheaper than a PC (desktop\laptop) when it is time to get a new device.
  4. The real threat to Microsoft comes from Android, as OEMs are gradually warming up to Android as an alternative for Windows for laptops. Since the market is undergoing a major shift in the kind of personal devices being used (desktops to laptops to mobiles & tablets), there is a big scope for a free OS. Android has been successful on mobiles while Linux failed on PCs due to this very reason.
  5. OS development has an associated cost even if you do not pay a third party for it. Apple is just subsidizing the software costs through hardware margins. Even if OEMs decide to opt for Android or Chrome OS, they will need an in house team to customize the OS. Of course, OEMs probably already have an in house team developing software for Windows given the typical bloatware that comes pre-installed on PCs.

The bottom line is that Microsoft has to continue to woo its OEM partners who bring in the OS revenue, while at the same time transform its revenue source to hardware. The Nokia acquisition becomes even more important now.

The New Microsoft?

Just replace Google with Microsoft and turn back the clock by 15-20 years in the below article and you will notice striking similarities in their strategies to capture the market:

Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary | Ars Technica.

The decisions make perfect business sense and is possibly the easiest way for Google to maintain control over Android while taking care of the fragmentation issues that have plagued the platform over the last few years. As an end user this has both positive and negative implications. The good part is that we do not have to depend as much on OEMs and carriers for Android updates and features. The bad news is mainly for the open source fanatics who thought that Android was “open”.

Of course, if you are an Android device maker, particularly one that is floundering in the face of the Samsung onslaught, then you are in a tough spot. Case in point is HTC that has been making pretty distinct devices that get good reviews, but doesn’t have any profits to show. Good acquisition target for Amazon it seems.

Then, there is also Google’s strategy to suffocate the Windows Phone platform by ignoring it and depriving it of first party Google Apps. Another strategy that makes very good business sense, but not really in the spirit of “Don’t be Evil”.

In a broader sense, the “Don’t be Evil” Google is long gone, having been replaced by a business savvy one which is a natural transition for maturing companies to survive in the marketplace. I just hope that Google Services don’t do to the internet what Microsoft did with Internet Explorer and Office…

Windows Phone and the Google Contacts problem

Ever since I got my Lumia 720, I have had issues with missing phone numbers for some of my Google contacts. The same contacts showed up with all their details on my Galaxy S3. Since practically all my contact data are stored on Google this was a real downer in an otherwise excellent experience with the phone.

Thankfully, a bit of research on the web along with some experimentation led me to the problem and the eventual solution. The problem seems to be phone numbers that have been categorized as Main in particular on Google contacts. These are not recognized by Windows Phone and don’t show up in the contact details. The only solution to this is to categorize the number as ones recognized by Windows Phone like Home, Work or Mobile.

You can also see from the screenshots that while some categories are common to Google contacts and Windows Phone, quite a few are not. In such cases, you should opt for the Windows Phone option as Google contacts is quite flexible since it allows user defined categories (Android phones also seem to be flexible in this regard) while Windows Phone does not recognize ones outside its list.

A couple of other things to keep in mind:

  1. Windows Phone does not provide you a send SMS option from the profile view unless the number is categorized as Mobile or Mobile 2.
  2. If you create a number with a Windows Phone category not available on Google contacts, it will show up on Google contacts, but may have a different label. For example, Mobile 2 ends up as Car. So, don’t be surprised.

 

Should you really care what tech critics say?

One thing that has been made abundantly clear over the last decade is that technology critics have endless amounts of advice for the leading companies rooted in conventional wisdom. Somehow, companies that have kept their ears shut or added liberal doses of salt to the advice seem to be the ones that have done better.

Want examples? Here’s what one had to say about Apple in 2004:

If Apple is really the brains of the industry–if its products are so much better than Microsoft’s or Dell’s or IBM’s or Hewlett-Packard’s–then why is the company so damned small?

Regarding mobile devices:

Newton had its problems–it was clunky, hard to use, and probably ahead of its time. But it still seems baffling that Apple failed to capture a meaningful stake in the $3.3 billion market for personal digital assistants (PDAs), a business that by some measures is now growing faster than either mobile phones or PCs.

And iPod & online music:

That’s why recent releases of competing portable music players take on great significance. Selling for as little as $299, the Dell DJ is about $100 cheaper than the iPod with the same 5,000 song capacity. (A $500 iPod holds 10,000 songs). A third product, a 20-GB unit made by Samsung to work with Napster 2.0, costs $100 less than the 20-GB iPod, or about $300, and boasts a lot more features, including a built-in FM transmitter–to play songs on a car radio–and a voice recorder.

And the competition is swarming. Dell and Samsung are challenging enough, but this business is about to turn into a battle of the titans. Wal-Mart is launching a cut-price online music store of its own–and now Microsoft and Sony, no less, are joining the fray. So Apple’s venture into online music is beginning to look like yet another case of frustration-by-innovation. Once again, Apple has pioneered a market–created a whole new business, even–with a cool, visionary product. And once again, it has drawn copycats with the scale and financial heft to undersell and out-market it. In the end, digital music could turn out to be just one more party that Apple started, but ultimately gets tossed out of.

Ending it with this note:

If Apple teaches us anything, it’s that effective innovation is about more than building beautiful cool things.

The rest as the conventional saying goes is history, starting with the iPhone in 2008 and iPad in 2010, and of course iTunes is the defacto online music resource. Also, not to forget Apple’s brief stint as the most valuable company in the world last year. The entire article makes for some very weird reading in hindsight.

Fast forward to the present and critics have upgraded their conventional wisdom to what Apple\Google\Amazon have done, and here’s what one has to tell Microsoft that slipped up on the web and mobile revolution:

Ballmer oversaw a decade of missed opportunities, and he very well may have hastened Microsoft’s decline. But it might have been inevitable. The truth is that for all its claims of innovation, Microsoft never generated much in the way of profits by innovating. This then is a tale of the long, slow death of an enormous cash cow.

And so Apple and Microsoft have had their fortunes reversed in less than a decade, and the critics have been having a ball over the last couple of years as they dish out unsolicited advice to both. Google and Amazon are gradually beginning to receive their share as well, as people try to figure out their long term strategies.

Apple & The Default Narrative

I choose to quote a para supporting the default narrative unlike John Gruber:

That isn’t to say that Apple should be controlling and arrogant, and that their choices don’t create genuine problems worth bitching about. Nobody should pretend it’s good for consumers that Apple doesn’t let Nuance make Swype for iOS and doesn’t let us set Chrome to be our default iPhone browser and that it’s to my benefit that iCloud makes it impossible to use Byword on the Mac and iA Writer on the iPad to edit the same plain text documents. Apple definitely contributes to their own reputation.

via Coyote Tracks – The Default Narrative.

Microsoft’s last stand?

Microsoft is desperately trying to avoid the fate they inflicted on the Mac in the 1990s with Windows 9X:

Office for iPad, launched at the same time as Windows 8/RT, would most likely have killed the market for Windows 8 and RT devices. As it was, that market was already severely diminished and below expectations. But with a viable alternative tablet, it could have been game over. And the ramifications of that decision would have impacted far more than just Windows 8/RT: The PC market could have literally collapsed, much as the video game market did in 1983. The fallout would have included PC makers going out of business/being sold, a serious and potentially permanent hit to Microsoft’s bottom line and the ouster of Steve Ballmer. I’m talking tech Armageddon here.

via A Theory about the Office on iPad Schedule | Office 2013 content from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows