“Windows Live ActiveSync” update: No HTML mail in WM 6.xx, and our own FAQ

(Hey look, more naming confusion, yay! Yesterday’s Inside Windows Live blog post didn’t mention it, but we just noticed that the “Known Issues” page refers to “Windows Live ActiveSync”, go figure.  Anyway we’ll probably call it EAS for Hotmail until we hear different.)

A number of you are rightfully upset that EAS on Windows Mobile 6.xx devices doesn’t support HTML Mail, and in looking through all the comments both here and on Inside Windows Live, we’ve tried to piece together a bit of an explanation, although unfortunately not a solution.

(Update: Jamie T points out that you can use the Windows Live for Windows Phone app (which uses DeltaSync, not EAS) for getting HTML email on WinMob 6.xx, and then use EAS for syncing your contacts and calendar.  Let us know if this solution works for you!)

Exchange ActiveSync comes in a number of different versions, from 1.0, released in 2002, all the way up to version 14.1 (version numbers changed from 2.5 to 12.0).  Hotmail has implemented version 2.5 of Exchange ActiveSync, which was released as part of Exchange Server 2003 SP2.  Inside Windows Live commenter Zack Williamson has some good insights into EAS for Hotmail:

ActiveSync is much more complicated to implement once you use a version higher than 2.5. Because Hotmail isn’t based on Exchange, but rather a custom-built mail system, it takes a great deal of integration in order to implement a basic ActiveSync setup. And considering this is the first version, I have to say that it’s been very well done thus far.

Zack goes on to explain a bit more on HTML mail:

Because the rolled out version of ActiveSync is 2.5, WM 6.x sees the server as an Exchange 2003 SP2-style server. And since WM 6.x actually FULLY adheres to the ActiveSync standard, unlike any other implementation (iOS, Android, etc.), WM knows that 2.5 isn’t supposed to handle HTML emails, therefore it’s disabled from the device-side. To put it another way, WM has the ability to receive HTML emails via ActiveSync, but it’s playing strictly by the rules of the Exchange ActiveSync 2.5 policy – which only supports plain text.

Bottom line is that because WM, due probably to the fact that it was designed to connect to secure Exchange servers used for business (unlike the iPhone which was just looking for a well-built, but consumer oriented sync solution) has stricter adherence (and less consumer functionality) to the EAS spec, HTML mail is not an option, currently.

And in a side note, today we added a new FAQ for Hotmail EAS.  If you have tips and tricks for getting your phone to work, feel free to leave a comment (please try to keep more general comments to the blog posts).  We’re using our FAQs Plus to have a quick place to store links and info for future posts, but you’re welcome to check it out, too!