NetSuite introduced on July 12 a mobile application access interface called SuitePhone that will allow iPhone users to link up to information stored in the latest version of its software, NetSuite 2007.
The difference between NetSuites SuitePhone and application synchronization with other mobile devices is in the amount of functionality available on the iPhone, according to Malin Huffman, senior manager of product management at NetSuite.
"Traditionally in a mobile environment business applications provide a scope of functionality that is limited—typically CRM [customer relationship management] or access to the back office, but its a defined set of capabilities," said Huffman, in San Mateo, Calif. "With iPhone, all of NetSuites CRM, all of ERP [enterprise resource planning] is available—even the ability to manage e-commerce activities."
The reason NetSuite, which provides an integrated on-demand CRM and ERP suite, is able to expose so much functionality over the iPhone is threefold, according to Huffman: the fact the software is built as an on-demand service, NetSuites ongoing and deepening support of Apples Safari browser, and the companys use of AJAX as a user interface standard.
Huffman said NetSuite has been working with Apple over the last couple of years to improve support of NetSuite running on the Safari browser. Because Apple designed Safari to run on standard Web technology, NetSuite had to analyze its own development environment to see if it utilized technologies that really are Web standard, according to Huffman. "So this was an exercise to support all different browsers in the same way," he said. "It involves a lot of QA to get the nuances of NetSuite on Safari."
Then with the latest iteration, NetSuite 2007.0, the company did a substantial amount of work to tighten support for Safari.
All that being said, given that Apple just released the 1.0 version of the iPhone, things are expected to improve from the initial iteration.
"The speeds are going to change and improve with access to the network," said Huffman. "The good news is users have a certain expectation; theyre not going to get T-1 speeds over a mobile device."
Using the SuitePhone, back-office users can remotely access financial functionality such as invoicing, accounts receivable and payroll. CRM, or front office users, can enter leads, file expense reports, view contacts, or place quotes and orders, officials said.
There are, however, some limitations to SuitePhones capabilities. "There are things like printing that just arent supported," said Huffman, not at all seriously. "This is really about accessing information in NetSuite and entering new information. Were expecting people to check dashboards or run an income statement. We dont really think people are going to spend 8 hours a day on the iPhone."
The SuitePhone capability and native Safari browser support are available in the NetSuite 2007.0 release that is currently rolling out to existing users. It will be available to new customers in August.