Exchange 2010 SP2: OWA Mini Exposed (update of old blog post from May 2011)

So back in May 2011, I explained what OWA Mini was all about. Since then my Wiki page on the private Exchange Wiki has been updated. Here’s the most recent version. 

A new feature which will be (re)introduced with Exchange 2010 SP2 is OWA Mini or Outlook Mobile Access (OMA). OMA was the name of a similar feature in Exchange 2003.

What is OWA Mini?
OWA “Mini” is a lightweight browser-based client that works similarly to the old OMA client we know from Exchange 2003. It provides the following functionality:

  • Mailbox access via simple HTML browsers (must support cookies).
  • Functionality includes
    • Access to email, calendar, contacts, tasks and GAL.
    • Access to all email (including email in subfolders).
    • Compose, reply and forward emails.
    • Calendar, contact and task edit and creation.
    • Meeting requests handling.
    • Setting the Time Zone and Out of Office messages.
  • OWA Mini is built on a set of OWA forms, it’s not a separate application from OWA.
  • Built as a “Mini” experience to OWA and it leverages all segmentation flags existing in OWA.
  • OWA “Mini” is itself segmented via the OWA Mailbox policies.

It’s important to note that although OWA Mini looks very similar to the OMA we know from Exchange 2003, it is a completely new implemtnation and no code was reused.

Why was this functionality reintroduced?
There continues to be a large demand from certain geographical markets where browser phones still are used in a wide scale and Activesync is not available on those phones.

Accessing OWA Mini

OWA Mini is implemented as a virtual directory (vdir) named OMA, which is created below the OWA vdir.

This means that OWA Mini is accessed using the following URL format:

Client Detection Logic
There is not any client detection logic in the code that redirects certain devices or browser versions to the OMA vdir automatically. Said in another way, the user must specify the full URL to the OMA vdir.

Enabling and Disabling OWA Mini
OWA Mini can be enabled and disabled at two levels.  It can configured at the virtual directory level using “Set-OwaVirtualDirectory” cmdlet with the “-OwaMiniEnabled” boolean parameter.  It can be configured on a per-user basis through the use of OWA Mailbox Policies.  You can configure this option in the policy by using the “Set-OwaMailboxPolicy” cmdlet with the “-OwaMiniEnabled” boolean parameter.

Why doesn’t OWA Mini include a logoff button?
OWA Mini doesn’t use any authentication cookie and have no JavaScript to cleanup after you’re done working in the client. In addition, a logoff button wouldn’t serve any security purpose and therefore wasn’t deemed necessary.

What code is used for OWA Mini?
In order to support as many mobile phones as possible, OWA Mini is based on HTML 2.0.

How can I authenticate when accessing OWA Mini?
OWA Mini leverage basic authentication and the authentication is handled by the browser itself.

Why can I access OWA Mini without authenticating after I have closed the browser window?
OWA Mini uses the “public” OWA session timeout, which means that the server session will expire when it’s been inactive for the duration of time set using the “public” OWA timeout setting.

Until later,

Henrik Walther
Technology Architect/Writer/MS Vendor
MCM: Exchange Server | MVP: Exchange Architecture

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