Making the iPhone a killer business device

The device has potential, but Apple needs to meet corporate needs

After the release of the iPhone 3G (and the iPhone 2.0 update for first-generation iPhones), I reviewed the challenges facing corporate IT departments integrating the iPhone as a business device. In that three-part series, I looked at how to handle mass iPhone configuration and deployments, how to configure the iPhone to function in an Exchange environment , and the issues and rewards involved in developing custom in-house iPhone apps.

One thing became clear: The iPhone is unique. While it offers numerous features, its origins as a consumer device still leave in place a number of challenges when adopting it in the enterprise.

To its credit, Apple has dealt with a number of these issues, allowing the iPhone to be pre-configured for users, supporting secure networking and offering Exchange support -- including Exchange security policy support and the ability to remotely wipe a lost or stolen phone. But there's more Apple can do to meet corporate needs, from the perspective of both IT staffers and business users.

Here are 10 things that Apple could -- and should -- offer to make the iPhone a killer business device.

1. Provide expanded configuration and restriction options for administrators

Apple's iPhone Configuration Utility gives administrators a way to automatically configure a handful of features on the iPhone. Areas like e-mail/Exchange server and account information, passcode and auto-lock policies, wireless networking and VPN configuration, and installation of security certificates can be configured for users with configuration profiles that can be manually loaded onto each iPhone, distributed by e-mail or hosted on a Web site.

While the options for configuration profiles cover several core areas, they're still limited. A quick look at the iPhone's Settings application shows other areas a business might want to configure: the use of direct push or periodic fetch for new e-mail and other data, the ability to enable Bluetooth and location services; access restrictions on, for example, explicit content in the iPod application or built-in apps such as Safari, YouTube, the iTunes Wi-Fi store, the built-in camera and the App Store; and security settings for Safari.

Moving beyond the Settings application itself, administrators would benefit from being able to preconfigure additional applications, though this might be more difficult with third-party applications. Perhaps most importantly, administrators should be able to restrict access to any installed application, particularly since there's no way to remove any of Apple's built-in apps. What better way to really secure the device and ensure it is used appropriately and in accordance with company policies or local laws?

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Ryan Faas

Computerworld
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