Apple continues to answer the question of whether its iPhone is enterprise-ready. At Macworld on Jan. 6, Apple and Cisco Systems said they have enabled the Cisco WebEx Meeting Center collaboration application to run on Apple's iPhone 3G smart phone and the iPod Touch.
Available for free in Apple's App Store, the new Cisco WebEx iPhone application supports 3G mobile and 802.11 wireless networks to let users join Cisco WebEx meetings with a single click.
Once users join, they may see what colleagues and collaborators are sharing, see who is in the meeting, see and hear who is talking, and conduct a chat session with attendees from an iPhone.
A future version of the application will let Cisco Unified MeetingPlace users who aren't using WebEx Meeting Center Web conferencing to get enhanced audio information on their iPhones, including a list of participants and the names of current speakers.
Moreover, users will also be able to shuttle in-session Cisco WebEx Meeting Center and Cisco Unified MeetingPlace conferences from an iPhone 3G to an office desk environment and back by transferring the audio to a Cisco Unified IP Phone and the Web conference to a computer.
Alex Hadden-Boyd, director of enterprise marketing for Cisco's collaboration software group, explained the value of this future feature in a podcast:
"So, if I start a collaboration session while I'm on the train using a 3G mobile network, or while I'm walking around the Cisco campus using Wi-Fi, I can walk into my office and with a single flick of my wrist transfer a meeting to my office environment without missing a beat."
In short, the Cisco WebEx iPhone application lets users conduct meetings and collaboration activities on their iPhone 3Gs that they might normally only do using the WebEx application from their PCs. Such activities are liberating for mobile corporate workers looking to keep up with their colleagues while on the road.
Cisco isn't the first major collaboration player to embrace the iPhone. IBM in September 2008 introduced iNotes Ultralite, a free Web application that lets corporate workers access their Lotus Notes e-mail, calendar and contacts lists through Apple's Safari browser on the iPhone.
However, pairing WebEx, the No. 1 Web conferencing application in the world, with the world's leading consumer smart phone is a sensible move. Mobile experts argue that applications draw users to smart phones. If Apple continues to support popular enterprise applications, it could eventually challenge Research In Motion, Nokia Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile in enterprise mobility.
The Cisco WebEx meetings iPhone application supports SAAS (software as a service)-based telephony from Cisco WebEx Meeting Center and premises-based audio from Cisco Unified MeetingPlace, as well as telephony used by Cisco's service provider partners. Users need to have current subscriptions to the WebEx services to schedule or host a meeting; their WebEx site will be automatically upgraded to be iPhone-compatible.
To join a meeting, users must first download the Cisco WebEx Meeting Center application from the Apple App Store. Users can then join WebEx meetings they've been invited to attend on their iPhone by clicking the WebEx meeting invite link: "To join the Meeting on Your iPhone."
Users can attend a pre-scheduled meeting on the iPhone, but they can't schedule a meeting on the iPhone. Meetings must be scheduled on a computer on an iPhone-compatible WebEx site.
Also, this application works wherever iPhones are supported and 3G/Wi-Fi networks are available. WebEx Meeting Center on the iPhone is localized in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.