Ask any BlackBerry-toting exec whether theyre going to buy the new iPhone, and theyll ask you a question right back: Will my IT staff be able to support it?
Corporate users have become accustomed to high-tech smart phones that allow remote messaging, scheduling, group calendar functions and more. But analysts said there are at least three main hurdles for the iPhone in a corporate environment.
"The number one problem with the iPhone is that enterprise users want to push e-mail," said Jack E. Gold, principal analyst at technology advising firm J. Gold Associates in Northborough, Mass.
Many large corporations have standardized on using BlackBerry e-mail servers and remote devices from Research in Motion or on Motorolas Good Technology Group, both of which provide "push" email—think of all those executives scrambling to grab their buzzing BlackBerrys.
"The BlackBerry became the corporate standard," agreed Charles Golvin, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. He said this happened largely with RIMs release of its Enterprise Server product, which enabled IT departments to do large-scale deployments of push e-mail systems. The iPhone will support the IMAP and POP3 e-mail standards, but neither of these interface with existing push e-mail systems.
"This changed the selling model," Golvin said, "making it an IT department buy" rather than a personal one.
Golvin noted that this is a one-two punch against widespread corporate iPhone adoption. Not only do many companies have heavy and broad investments in RIMs server and device products, but Apple has no similar package.
Corporations also widely use Microsofts Outlook and Exchange products, which work with dedicated clients not only for e-mail (including the push kind) but also for scheduling.
And this is where Gold sees a second hurdle. "If an executive brings in an iPhone, how well does Outlook sync work?" he asked. "Its not easy, as Nokia and others know."
One alternative to the push e-mails is OWA (Outlook Web Access), which offers e-mail through a Web browser interface. Apple has stated that the iPhone will include a full-featured version of its standards-compliant Safari browser.
Though OWA does work on Mac browsers such as Safari, Camino and Firefox (and there have been unconfirmed reports of using OWA on Safari on an iPhone), Microsoft has kept in reserve "Premium" features for Internet Explorer users, relegating other browsers to a "Light" feature set.
What non-Internet Explorer users will not be able to use with OWA include task modules, searching for mail items, reminders, HTML message composing, a weekly calendar view, conversation view, spell-check and other features.
Though offering OWA could allow remote e-mail access (with limited messaging and calendaring features), this could still demand some work to set up. OWA is enabled by default in Exchange 2000 and later, but https support, which allows OWA outside a corporate firewall, requires Microsofts IIS (Internet Information Services) to be set up with certificates to do SSL.
But, said Gold, "OWA is not sufficient." He noted that users will need immediate, and off-line, access to contacts, schedules and e-mail. If an executive is traveling to a meeting and is out of network coverage, he still needs to know where he needs to be and when, Gold said.
"Apple believes, rightly of wrongly, that people will be happy with just using online information," he said.