How to make the new iPhone work at work

Apple's new SDK,3G handheld and iPhone 2.0 software should make it even easier to bring next-gen mobile to your enterprise. Here's what you need to know

With the release of Apple's iPhone SDK now come and gone, and the enhanced IT-oriented capabilities planned for the next major iPhone device and software update now unveiled, it's clear that iPhones are going to be corporate mainstays. Still, at its heart, the iPhone is a consumer device, so IT leaders still have to ensure that the iPhones that come in the door fit their data management and security strategies, even with Apple's new enterprise security capabilities.

So, where to begin gearing up the iPhone for use at work? How can you satisfy executive demands to make the iPhone fit for corporate essentials while maintaining security and manageability? For those looking to get a jump on business-enabling the iPhone, here's a handy guide on what's currently possible and how to get it done, as well as what is promised to be supported in the 2.0 software and 3G iPhone due in July. (Note that everything here applies to the iPhone's voiceless cousin, the iPod Touch with the January 2008 software update for the 1.x versions and the July 2008 2.0 update, which will cost US$10 for current iPod Touch users.)

Accessing corporate e-mail

IBM's promise of a Lotus Notes client for the iPhone remains unfulfilled. The iPhone 2.0 software update due in July will add a native Microsoft Exchange client, complete with ActiveSync. But in the meantime, if your business uses either system, you can provide e-mail access today via POP3 or IMAP, popular protocols that many businesses already support. In either case, the iPhone's Mail setup is where to begin configuring host addresses, user names, passwords, and SSL authentication.

A tip for Exchange setup in the current iPhone 1.x version: Even though the iPhone's current Mail setup includes an Exchange pane, don't use it. Use IMAP instead; the Exchange pane doesn't work. (Even Apple's support pages say to use the IMAP pane.)

Many businesses prefer IMAP to POP3 because IMAP provides greater control over message management, such as keeping the mail folders synchronized as mail is moved on any client. The iPhone will connect to the IMAP server and detect most settings automatically, making setup easy in most cases.

You can adjust the SSL settings, IMAP path prefix, server port, and other such settings by scrolling down to the Advanced portion of an individual mail account's setup area. Note that the iPhone's SSL options have been significantly enhanced from the first iteration's number-only token scheme.

What you can't do today with the iPhone -- out of the box, anyhow -- is get the BlackBerry's push-based approach to e-mail, in which the mail server sends messages to the device rather than requiring the device to query the server to gain access to new messages. This push-based approach makes it harder for someone to spoof the e-mail server. To push e-mail to an iPhone (or most other mobile devices) today, you need a mobile server, such as those from Visto and Synchonica; these integrate with your Exchange or Domino server.

But that will also change in July, when the iPhone 2.0 software includes Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync technology. ActiveSync lets the iPhone use Microsoft's Direct-Push e-mail feature. (Windows Mobile and Palm OS devices use ActiveSync as well to gain this capability; Research in Motion has built in its own push e-mail technology into its BlackBerry Enterprise Server product.) With Direct-Push, the connection between the OWA (Outlook Web Access) server's mail port and the mobile device remains open so that new messages are instantly visible. (The iPhone does use OWA as its connection to Exchange, just as Microsoft's Entourage e-mail client does for the Mac OS.)

Until the new software ships, you'll have to live with the iPhone's periodic mail checks (15 minutes is the shortest period, though you can easily find SSH hacks on the Web to reduce that window.)

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Galen Gruman

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