Is Apple's iPhone 2.0 Good Enough For Enterprises?

By Andy Patrizio

March 13, 2008

Some feel Apple needs to do much more to make the iPhone business-ready.

A developer of enterprise mobility software has expressed doubts that Apple's iPhone can cut it in the enterprise due to a number of issues, all of which Apple can change, but in doing so are anathema to how the company operates.

Ahmed Datoo, vice president of marketing of Zenprise, a developer of software for enterprise BlackBerry users, said he would welcome the opportunity to support the iPhone in the enterprise but has his doubts it will make much headway.

"The question that needs to be asked is, is the 2.0 software going to be good enough to take on RIM at the enterprise level?" he told InternetNews.com. "It doesn't look it. Is it good enough to get at the small and medium-sized business market? Probably. They have different requirements."

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) did not return calls seeking comment for this story. The company had its big enterprise roadmap event last week where it unveiled details of its software development kit (SDK) and support for Microsoft's Exchange Server. CRM and Saas provider Salesforce.com announced support for the iPhone and two large corporate customers, biotech giant Genentech and Nike, said they already had iPhone deployments underway.

"The iPhone is a watershed event in mobile computing for corporations," said Todd Pierce, vice president, of corporate IT at Genentech, in a statement. "Genentech’s pilot with iPhone has shown its potential to be the most useful business mobility tool we’ve ever used. We now have 3,000 planned for deployment based on how easy and simple it was to integrate iPhone with our corporate email system."

IDC analyst Sean Ryan, said Apple's support of Exchange was important to get the iPhone consideration among enterprise buyers, but nothing special. He notes that Nokia, Palm, Symbian, HTC and other mobile players already support Exchange and its ActiveSync technology for connecting to corporate email systems.

"In the mobile enterprise it's not just about the devise, but about the platform and the support system," said Ryan. "The iPhone has a lot of cachet, but there are many challenges to wide corporate adoption. It's a premium-priced device with limited device management." With Exchange, IT can shut down an iPhone that's lost or stolen, but other mobile devices have more extensive management capabilities.

Ryan also said the market for enterprises devices like smart phones is still at a very early stage and the iPhone is very new. "Apple has an opportunity but RIM, Nokia, Microsoft and others aren't going to sit still."

Datoo of Zenprise laid out four distinct areas he thinks Apple must overcome to make the iPhone a true success in the enterprise. The problems range from technical to perceptual. The first is that Apple is viewed as a consumer product, and firms that play in both spaces, consumer and enterprise, use separate brands. "It's rare to see a company pulling off operating in the enterprise space and consumer space with the same product," said Datoo.

The second is support. Apple is a relatively small company with modest support infrastructure. Where would an enterprise customer go for help, AT&T or Apple? Over the years, RIM built out a significant support structure, which Apple will need. "To be a mainstay in the enterprise, you need a support model conducive to an enterprise model," said Datoo.

The third problem is security. The iPhone's internals are not documented or exposed. Datoo said it's not even possible to get at basic internals, like the battery levels or signal strength meters. Many features, like Bluetooth and the camera, can't be locked down. Also, the iPhone is managed through iTunes, which many enterprises have banned from their computers. None of this, he said, will sit well with enterprise customers.

Finally, there is support. Datoo cited a Gartner study that put total cost of ownership for a mobile phone at between $1,300 and $2,600, with about 50 percent of that cost going to IT and user administration. iPhone has no remote administration features, no visibility into the device, which means a lot more time would be needed to be spent diagnosing problems.

And then there's the cultural issues. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is a major showman and loves a big splash at announcement time, but that means being ultra-secretive. While Intel and Microsoft lay out roadmaps stretching into 2010 and beyond, Apple won't confirm a 3G iPhone that even AT&T's CEO has said is coming this year.

That may work with consumer devices, but enterprises don't care for that kind of secretiveness. "In the enterprise, people want to know the next set of features so they can plan accordingly. That's totally antithetical to Apple," he said.

Summing up his view of the SDK and iPhone 2.0 software, "My overall feeling is this is a good first step for the iPhone, it will be well-received in the SMB market. It at least gets them to the discussion table with the enterprise but it's got a ways to go before it can become an enterprise standard."

Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies, agrees that Apple faces challenges but could meet them… if it wants to. "It's not a matter of can they do it, it's do they want to do it?" he said. "Culturally, it's not their main modus operandi and it would be hard to imagine them adopting this business model readily."

Because Apple has a smaller overall market, there is less support for its platforms and ergo, that support is more expensive. That hurts the company as well, said Kay. "I've watched this discussion go on among educational institutions, K through 12 and higher education, in terms of the Mac for years. A lot of the education institutions like the Mac but they don't all take it because they can't get support."

Kay figures it will be another case of Apple having things its own way and the market can take it or leave it. "Steve Jobs has always figured they could have it on their own terms. They offer Exchange support and figure people who will go for it will and those who won't, won't."

West Coast Bureau Chief David Needle contributed to this story. Story courtesy of InternetNews.com. 

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