Can you stop the iPhone now, IT?

Enterprise features on the new iPhone

One of my initial thoughts after hearing about the iPhone 3G was, "Hmmm, I wonder how the enterprise is going to keep this device out of the office." Last year, the checklist of reasons why IT shouldn't support it was pretty long, but Apple appears to have seen the lists and solved lots of these items.

First on the list was support for Exchange. The initial iPhone couldn't do it easily (you could, technically, access corporate e-mail if you used the Safari browser and went through the Outlook Web client), but the new version supports it "out of the box." I'm assuming that many of the major functions that mobile users are going to want from Exchange will work on the iPhone 3G. E-mail, of course, but calendars and contacts will also be synchronized over-the-air.

Other enterprise features on the new iPhone include VPN support (Cisco IPSec supported) and wireless security for the Wi-Fi connection (including WPA2 Enterprise and 802.1x authentication). The release of the iPhone SDK (Apple claims more than 250,000 downloads since the beginning of the year) means that enterprise applications (especially commercial enterprise apps) will be able to be ported to the iPhone.

There are still some small items that may cause an enterprise to take note. There's still no user-replaceable battery, so mobile workers who experience a battery failure have to figure out a way to get Apple (or AT&T) to replace it. The same goes for memory -- while 8GB and 16GB seem like enough space, there's no way to add additional memory. The lack of physical keys on the device may be an issue for users who love typing on their BlackBerry, but I wouldn't be surprised to see an attachable keyboard at some point, either from Apple or an accessories vendor.

And despite the "half the price, twice the speed" mantra from Apple, when you add in the data plan from AT&T, which increased the data plans for the 3G network by about $10 per month, the costs for owning a new iPhone are about the same as the old one. But you get the new features and the faster network, so I'm not so sure that argument holds up. The US$45 per month for the right to connect an iPhone to Exchange e-mail might be the last objection from IT, it seems that AT&T is sticking it to business users. But most enterprises probably won't object to this since it's a cost of doing business for them, and it's not much more than what BlackBerry and other corporate e-mail services cost.

It seems to me that if there are any remaining objections by IT regarding the iPhone, they would seem to be personal opinions about Apple, or AT&T, rather than the technical features.

When I tried the iPhone last year, I loved a lot of the "personal" features that transformed mobile devices. With this year's version, I have a feeling I'll love the "business" features as well. We'll see what happens in about a month, when the iPhone 3G goes on sale.

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Keith Shaw

Network World
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