Friday Rant - Why is ActiveSync so rubbish?

On why on why can't I ActiveSync over WiFi?

On why on why can't I ActiveSync over WiFi?

I used to like Windows Mobile devices.  There was a time when I carried an iPAQ with me pretty much everywhere I went.  Over the years I've had a few different versions and found them all to be pretty useful (well, all except the first and only SmartPhone I bought.  Have I ever told you my SmartPhone story?  No?  Let me sum it up for you, it was execrable!)  But lately I've given up on them because Microsoft kept pulling all the cool, useful features and replacing them with rubbish features.  I also got tired of waiting for a Windows Mobile device with ample memory and a decent processor to come out.  (Why does HP still think that the iPAQ doesn’t need more than a few hundred megabytes of memory?)  But the thing that really got up my nose and a upset me most was Microsoft removing support for ActiveSyncing devices over WiFi.

It seems like I'm not alone in wanting to have the ability to sync over WiFi re-enabled in ActiveSync (it was removed in version 4).  A quick search on the topic brings up stacks of questions, friendly requests and angry rants aimed at Microsoft.  Back in November of last year the Windows Mobile Team Blog made a post on this subject.  Here's what Mike Calligaro had to say:

Having survived explaining why the X button doesn’t close apps, I’ve been emboldened to take on the completely radioactive subject of why WiFi ActiveSync was removed from ActiveSync 4.  I’m sure that I won’t come out of this one unscathed.  The people affected by this are really angry.  And, though I didn’t have anything to do with the decision, I’m guessing that you’re going to take your frustrations out on me anyway.  But, hey, someone needs to explain why these things happen.  That someone might as well be me.

I guess he already knew that this was a touchy subject with users.  He then went on to explain the reason that this feature was removed was security:

The official (and true) reason has always been stated as “We removed it for security reasons.”  But, judging from the number of angry comments I see posted here, that explanation hasn’t really convinced anyone that it was a good idea.  So, let me go into more detail.  The first major issue is this: Exchange ActiveSync is encrypted and desktop ActiveSync isn’t.

OK, security, fine.  But what's the big deal?  Since ActiveSync for Exchange Server is encrypted, why not just implement this into the desktop version and fix it?  Why pull the plug on syncing over a WiFi connection (a connection that can be strongly encrypted provided you’re sensible enough to secure your Wifi) and instead only allow syncing over Bluetooth (which while being encrypted by default, uses very weak encryption).  Why do I have to choose between leaving my mobile device in the cradle or implementing a Bluetooth network when I have a secure WiFi network that I could use?  That's just plain crazy.

In the end the blog post says it all:

I can’t tell you when you’ll get your WiFi back. 

That just sucks.  Yet another example of Microsoft pulling the rug on useful features because of security concerns … rather than fixing the underlying problem.

Go on, it's the end of the week, get your rants off your chest!


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