The iPhone created a whole new segment of smartphones targeted at consumers rather than business users when it was introduced last year. As a consumer who has tried to use a business-targeted smartphone (the HTC Touch for one painful month) I can honestly say that the frustrations of the Windows Mobile interface by far out weigh the usefulness of having a web browser and email access.
However, for business users coveting an iPhone it’s been tough to convince IT managers that Apple’s mobile is a legitimate alternative to Windows mobile-enabled smartphones or RIM’s BlackBerry. Perhaps most crucial was the fact that the iPhone currently lacks support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, something that Nokia, Palm, Symbian, HTC, and other mobile players already support. Without it, iPhone users can’t connect to company email safely and securely. There is also the absence of crucial third-party applications such as a word processor or spreadsheet. But all that is about to change.
With the release of the SDK for the iPhone, Apple seems to be finally on track to compete in the business smartphone market. The company has also promised to add enterprise-focused gems such as full Exchange support, remote wipe capabilities, push-based email, calendar info, contact management, additional support for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), better WiFi security support and lots of other necessary tools this June.
But do these promised changes really answer the requirements of enterprise?
Analysts aren’t convinced. One issue is Apple’s one-carrier-per country model. If an enterprise has a contract with another provider they are not going to switch 10,000 people to O2 just so they can have iPhones. Apple recently claimed that it is not tied to this one-carrier business model, so this could change.
Another concern is security. While the device-wipe ability is a highlight of the iPhone – as this will enforce the use of complex passwords and help the iPhone meet basic corporate security standards – this may not be enough, according to Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney. He notes that the BlackBerry has a larger array of security policies, such as the ability for IT departments to disable the digital cameras, or to enable or shut down specific Bluetooth profiles.
So, Apple may have some more areas to address if the iPhone is really to win over the enterprise market. Of course, the company will have a few more features up its sleeve when it unveils the all-new iPhone at WWDC this June, so I wouldn’t write it off yet. The iPhone may soon become more than just a consumer phenomenon.