Is Apple's iPhone a bad fit for the enterprise?
Not so, Ron Spears, chief of AT&T's Business Solutions unit, told attendees at a Barclays Capital Communications, Media and Technology conference, saying 40 percent of the iPhones that AT&T sells go to business users.
While early naysayers-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer included-pointed to the iPhone's lack of a physical keyboard or cited security issues, ideas about mobile usage have evolved and Apple has addressed legitimate software concerns, Spears said at the May 20 conference.
"Four out of 10 sales of the iPhone are made to enterprise users. When the iPhone came out, what most people heard in the first year from '07 to '08 was, 'Oh, my God, it's not BlackBerry-secure. This is not going to work [in] the enterprise space,'" Spears said, according to reporting from ZDNet.
"At the end of the day, it's just software. That's all it is. And by the time the 3G came out in '08, they had solved about 80 percent of the security issues. By the time the 3GS came out last summer, most CIOs will tell you today they have very few issues around the security that they need provided as they have come to know that RIM [Research In Motion] can do it because of the way RIM provides their solution."
Enterprise acceptance of the iPhone appears to be a matter of shifting perspective-with enterprises viewing the iPhone as not just a smartphone but a mobile computer-and a steelier eye on the bottom lines. According to Spears, enterprise customers are, where possible, foregoing a laptop purchase in favor of an iPhone, a trend that's likely to extend to the iPad as well.
"If they've got a field service force that needs one or two applications on a daily basis, do they need to go out and spend $1,000 or $1,200 for a laptop and then worry about sort of the life-cycle costs of keeping up with the laptop?" Spears said.
According to the report, Spears additionally described the iPhone as changing the way that he personally works, as his team's monthly reporting is now all built into an iPhone application.
"Any time I want to look at where we sort of sit from a financial point of view in ABS, it now resides on my iPhone as an app. So it starts to change the way you think about governing your business. It changes the speed with which you can make decisions," Spears said.
While AT&T's investment in Android-running smartphones has so far been modest, Spears said he could imagine such devices eventually also finding a place in the enterprise, though they're not there yet.
"Over time, my guess is there will be an evolution that's kind of hard to ignore [in] the enterprise space," he said.
For now, however, consumers and business users alike remain almost single-mindedly focused on the iPhone.
While a customer satisfaction survey in May from ChangeWave found Verizon Wireless customers to be the most satisfied in the industry, and AT&T, conversely, received the lowest rating that the research company had ever recorded, more than half of Verizon customers nonetheless reported having an interest in the iPhone-which for now in the United States remains exclusive to the AT&T Wireless network.