iPhone Knocking on the Enterprise

Apple is crowing in the aftermath its 3G iPhone launch on Friday and the opening of its App Store, the download site for third-party iPhone applications, the day before.

The company said today that it tallied 10 million downloads from its App Store since late last week, and has sold one million 3G iPhones so far.

Amid this backdrop, Apple is pushing hard to get the iPhone into the enterprise and gain more market share with business users. In addition to the device’s native capabilities and Apple’s licensing of Microsoft’s ActiveSync (define) for tying in with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Exchange for Outlook, enterprise IT gets access control and management.

Third-party vendors are rushing to offer enterprise applications for the iPhone. These range from database and CRM (define) vendors to enterprise e-mail specialists, enterprise wireless synchronization, Outlook, hosted Microsoft Exchange Server, security, a managed IT infrastructure, to business intelligence (BI).

But despite the crush of vendors hawking their wares, support for the iPhone in the enterprise faces some stumbling blocks that could slow or hamper its march into the world of IT support, analysts and industry experts said.

The iPhone “is definitely competitive, but Apple has a lot of work to do,” IDC analyst Ryan Reith told InternetNews.com. Why? Because it’s not the end-user making the decision in this realm; instead, it’s the IT team making that decision on support, and Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices already have a very large footprint in the enterprise, Reith added.

Jack Gold, principal at J. Gold Associates, is also on record as doubtful that the iPhone is going to blitz its way into enterprise adoption anytime soon.

For one, applications have to be deployed through the Apple App Store, over Apple servers, and that’s not acceptable for mission-critical and proprietary applications, Gold said.

Another objection is that application development requires knowledge of the Apple development environment, a burden enterprise IT may not want to add to its already heavy workload. “It’s not difficult to develop applications on the Apple platform, it’s that they’re different and many IT organizations may not want to get into that,” Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst Ken Dulaney told InternetNews.com.

Two other issues are based on the iPhone itself. One is that enterprises don’t know how durable the device will be. That’s important for budgeting reasons, as field failures of smart phone devices are costly when they’re used by hundreds or thousands of staff. But one analyst called that a red herring, especially now that the price, at $199, is in the same price range as other enterprise-ready devices.

The second issue is that the battery cannot be removed or replaced by end users. Enterprise users who rely heavily on their smart phones often carry an extra battery out in the field, Gold said.

Other issues Gold raised are the availability of peripheral services such as personal organization and productivity application MobileMe to synchronize the iPhone to corporate desktops or laptops, because of security concerns.

Then there’s the one-carrier issue. Enterprises generally have long-term company-wide contracts with carriers, and if their carrier isn’t AT&T, they may be forced to sign individual contracts for iPhone users, which they may not want to do.

Slowing, but not stopping

All of these issues are hurdles, but temporary ones, experts said.

“We have a lot of customers who tell us that, as much as they don’t want to support it, the CIO or some other C-level executive got an iPhone and told them to make it work,” countered Sina Miri, director of product marketing and management at Apple partner PostPath. “It’s not a matter of choice any more.”

Corporate users want more than the simple e-mail access provided by the RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerry, said Miri, whose company offers a Linux-based, non-Microsoft e-mail server that offers drop-in/native interoperability with Microsoft’s Exchange server for Outlook. “Over the past few months, more and more users want ActiveSync devices, from Motorola (NYSE: MOT) or Nokia, (NYSE: NOK) because the interface on the BlackBerry’s tiny screen isn’t good enough and because they offer more services than e-mail,” he added. “Then the iPhone arrived.”

And it comes with enterprise-ready functions. it offers built-in support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, and supports Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, JPEG and iWork files. Also, enterprises can build custom applications with the iPhone software development kit (SDK) (define) and deploy them through the Apple Apps site to authorized iPhones.

In addition to making the iPhone enterprise-capable, Apple has posted a new application on its site that helps manage iPhones in the corporate environment, the iPhone Configuration Utility. And its site has a phone number for an AT&T program for enterprises that want to buy the iPhone.

However, a call to the number revealed a few problems. For one, the iPhone is sold out, and the sales representative told InternetNews.com that Apple has run out of the devices and even if they were ordered today they will not be shipped for 10 to 14 days.

Further, businesses are limited to ordering three iPhones a day or a total of nine a week. Businesses will not be allowed get around this by ordering three a day every day of the week because “they can’t get more than nine a week,” the representative said, adding that the billing and shipping addresses must be the same.

Next page: The majors step up, no matter what

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Here come the third-party vendors

Support from major players such as Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) and Oracle, (NASDAQ: ORCL) who have announced that they will launch applications on the iPhone, strengthen its possibility for enterprise use.

Almost all Oracle’s applications are Web-based, which means they will be accessible on the iPhone as well as other mobile devices, vice president of product management for Oracle business intelligence Paul Rodwick told InternetNews.com. “The strategy is to have thin-client Web-based applications that run on a variety of platforms,” Rodwick added.

Salesforce.com, meanwhile, sees its twin strategies of platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) (define) as very well suited for the iPhone. “Our mobile technology will enable any of our CRM applications and the more than 72,000 Force.com custom applications developed by our customers to work on the iPhone,” vice president of Salesforce Mobile Chuck Dietrich told InternetNews.com.

The company will keep investing in the iPhone platform because “Apple and Salesforce have a shared vision of what can be done on mobile devices — Apple’s leadership and interface, and the flexibility and customization capabilities of the Force.com platform make the iPhone and Force.com platform a powerful combination,” Bruce Francis, Salesforce.com’s vice president of corporate strategy, told InternetNews.com.

With the pace of business constantly increasing, BI is becoming increasingly critical, and BI offerings from vendors other than Oracle are already available on the iPhone. Information Builders and open source BI vendor Pentaho offer access to their BI applications from the iPhone.

Meanwhile, on-demand enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendor NetSuite (NYSE: N) has been providing users access to data in its systems through the iPhone since July 2007. Users get access to the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) (define), customer relationship management (CRM) (define) and e-commerce functions on the device.

Third-party vendors also offer products in this area. Apptix, 123Together and Elephant Outlook have announced hosted Microsoft Exchange 2007 services on the iPhone through ActiveSync. According to 123Together, its application lets a company’s IT staff remotely wipe a user’s device if it’s lost or stolen, to prevent loss of corporate and personal data.

Meanwhile, Transmedia is offering advanced Microsoft Word document support with automatic desktop synchronization and version control on the iPhone through its Glide OS 3.0 product. And Managed IT service provider mindSHIFT Technologies is offering enterprise application synchronization through Microsoft ActiveSync.

One alternative to Exchange is the Linux-based PostPath Server, which offers Linux-based enterprise messaging collaboration. It works out of the box with the iPhone, supports the Exchange ecosystem — Outlook, BlackBerry Enterprise Server and ActiveSync — and can be managed with Active Directory tools, PostPath’s Miri said.

Wireless enterprise e-mail and personal information manager (PIM) (define) synchronization support for Microsoft Exchange users is not enough, Notify Technologies contends. It is extending this support to 12 other e-mail suites through its NotifyLink Enterprise Edition product.

Earlier this year, Sybase released iAnywhere Mobile Office, which provides secure delivery of Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange enterprise e-mail to users. Sybase plans to enhance other iAnywhere Mobile Office components and support the iPhone e-mail and PIM services.

Meanwhile, GoTrusted.com has launched a Web-based application that makes it easier to add WiFi data security to any Apple iPhone or iTouch device by creating a subscription to its Internet security service. That service encrypts all local network traffic.

Enterprises using hosted Exchange or PostPath applications will be able to use the servers’ encryption services. Those using Lotus Domino can leverage Sybase’s secure delivery of Domino enterprise e-mail.

Further, the iPhone 3G supports Cisco IPSec, (define) VPN (virtual private network) (define) and WPA2 (define) Enterprise with 802.1X authentication, according to Apple’s site. This will enhance security, because enterprise iPhone users can tunnel through to Cisco’s VPN from the iPhone using IPSec, PostPath’s Miri said.

Ultimately, the question of whether an iPhone is secure enough for mobile workers boils down to how much data will be compromised when a device is lost. “Would you rather lose a laptop, which may have three years’ worth of sensitive data and enterprise information on its 120 G-byte hard drive, or an iPhone, which has 8 GB which you can remotely wipe in three seconds?” Miri asked.

Sure, hurdles exist now, but an ecosystem is forming for iPhone in the enterprise. Analysts and industry observers alike say it’s not a matter of if, but when the iPhone in the enterprise starts to take root.

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com

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