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Microsoft Authenticator App Gets Password Bypass Feature

Microsoft has streamlined site access for Android and iOS mobile device users with a new password bypass feature addition to the Microsoft Authenticator application.

The Microsoft Authenticator app is an identity authentication application for mobile devices that verifies user identities via a notification service, where messages seeking a response get pushed down to those devices. The app is available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices, but a new Microsoft Authenticator app feature that bypasses Microsoft account passwords, called "phone sign-in for Microsoft accounts," was only added to the apps for the Android and iOS mobile platforms.

According to this scheme, it's possible for Android and iOS mobile devices using the Microsoft Authenticator applications to access new sites without users having to remember their Microsoft account passwords. The way it works is that a user will enter their name to access a site. In response, the user will receive a notification on their device. Clicking the notification's "Approve" button then grants the user access the site.

This new phone sign-in for Microsoft accounts feature is now at the "general availability" stage for Android and iOS devices, meaning that Microsoft sees it as being ready for commercial use. However, one glaring omission was feature support for Microsoft's own Windows Phone operating systems. Such support currently isn't available.

Moreover, Microsoft wants to see how well the phone sign-in for Microsoft accounts feature is working for Android and iOS devices. It'll then consider adding the feature to the Microsoft Authenticator app for Windows Phone devices.

Here's how Alex Simons, director of program management at the Microsoft Identity Division, explained that decision:

A few people have asked if this works with Windows Phone version Microsoft Authenticator. Windows Phone makes up <5% of the active users of our Authenticator Apps so we have prioritized getting this working with iOS and Android for now. If/When it becomes a big success on those high scale platforms, we will evaluate adding support for Windows Phone.

Microsoft's development planning now typically favors the leading mobile OS platforms, which has meant prioritizing support for Android and iOS, even over Windows. Analyst firm Gartner Inc. recently found that Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS market had dipped below 1 percent to 0.7 percent in Q1 of this year.

Still, Microsoft's decision to omit Windows Phone support with this new password bypass feature didn't seem popular, based on reader comments accompanying the announcement.

"If Microsoft won't lead the way developing apps for their own platform, what does that say to third-party or independent developers?" wondered "JC" in the comments section.

In other mobile news, the "creators update" version of Windows 10 Mobile could start arriving for devices as early as April 25, although mobile carrier plans could be a delaying factor. Meanwhile, Microsoft this month published a list of creators update-supported mobile devices. Devices not on the list won't get it. The list can be found in this announcement.

In addition, Microsoft explained that the Windows 10 Mobile build versioning and branch releases will now start to diverge from the numbering and branches seen on the Window 10 PC side. The rationale for that change was attributed to "OneCore" development efforts.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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