Making iPhone Work In The Enterprise

by Ted Schadler

If you had asked me three years ago whether the mobile industry would become a free-for-all of innovation and opportunity, I would have been forced to sigh and say, "can't see how -- the carriers don't seem interested in unlocking that potential."

I would certainly have been wrong as Apple has so impressively shown with its iPhone strategy (with first AT&T's and now 100s of carrier's support).

After 21 months in market, it's quite clear that Apple is redefining its third industry: first the computer industry, next the music industry, and now the mobile industry. With 25,000 applications (yes, mostly consumer applications today) available on Apple's private store and a reported 800,000,000 downloads, the iPhone has become a new platform for innovation.

At least one major enterprise vendor -- Cisco -- now treats the iPhone ahead of BlackBerry devices as a tier one device, at least as demonstrated by its WebEx and Cisco Call Manager applications.

But enterprises have been slow to adopt the product because of legitimate security and manageability concerns. Perhaps no longer. We found three enterprises willing to talk about their support of iPhone:

  1. Kraft Foods uses iPhone support to signal new suipport for employee culture change. Adding 400 more iPhones a month, on track for 4,000 iPhones by year end.

  2. Oracle Corporation responds to employee demand for iPhones. 4,000 iPhones globally and counting.

  3. An IT senior director at a California-based pharmaceutical company makes iPhone a priority. January 2009 launch, adding 100+ iPhones a month.

There are issues to be sure, but none that they haven't been able to overcome, and with third-party support from companies like Cisco, IBM Lotus, Salesforce.com, and Oracle, the future of mobile collaboration on iPhone looks rosy. While BlackBerry devices continue to be gold standard for messaging and calendars, iPhones are rapidly establishing dominance for browser applications and native applications for content, data, and Web applications.

The capper is that Apple is not standing still. Apple is among other things a software company, and it has embraced the ethoses of developer APIs, rapid improvement, open source, and a simple path to market, the hallmarks of the PC and Internet industries. For example, unlike other mobile device manufacturers, Apple makes it easier to upgrade the software on existing devices. For example, with iPhone 2.0 software, Apple added ActiveSync support to allow iPhones to work with Exchange servers (as well as standards support for other email systems).  

And with iPhone 3.0 software, now in beta and free of charge for iPhone owners, Apple has made it easier for enterprises to support iPhones with:

 

  • Better VPN security, including the ability to force a log-in every time.

  • Better calendar and calendar synchronization support, including CalDAV and better ActiveSync support.

  • Policies for locking down devices, for example to turn off the camera.

  • Encrypted configuration files to protect stolen devices or PCs with iTunes from prying eyes.

What does this mean for Information & Knowledge Management professionals?

  • WIM #1: Put iPhone on a list of devices to support. Apple has demonstrated enough support to merit a hard look by your CISO and infrastructure & operations group. The apps keep rolling in. For example, Web conferencing is already shown  to be an important collaboration application on iPhone. Training, access to team sites, and an inside-the-firewall access to corporate apps means.
  • WIM #2: Smartphones will join laptops as a must-support device for mobile applications. Our consumer data is quite shocking here: While 53% of all smartphone owners brings a laptop home from work regularly, only 38% of iPhone owners do.

  • WIM #3: Expect that individual employees will be okay buying and supporting their own devices. iPhone is but one more example of consumer IT being better than business IT. This consumerization or Technology Populism trend is with us forever. IT groups should harness this energy and ask their employees to step up and bring in the tools they need to get their jobs done.

     

Disagree? Agree? Have a success or horror story to share? Please comment.

 

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Comments

re: Making iPhone Work In The Enterprise

Ted,Our experience at PBwiki agrees with yours 100%. While our mobile edition supports both Blackberry and iPhone, there is definitely a lot more excitement (and usage) around the iPhone by a wide margin.Now if only Steve Jobs would provide support for Flash...