After the iPhone Enterprise Media Blitz

Apple's iPhone 3G is a very cool device. But do enterprise IT staffs really care? They already support RIM's BlackBerry and the Windows Mobile, Palm and Symbian OSes. Do they want to also manage Apple? The BlackBerry remains the hands-down leader for mobile enterprise users and that's not likely to change anytime soon.

In the warm media afterglow of the iPhone 3G release July 11, a number of analysts and writers are taking a leap of faith and claiming Apple's new smart phone is now poised to crack the enterprise market. Why? Because that's what Apple says. In fact, Apple claims, the iPhone is the "best phone for business. Ever."

It's not, and anyone who writes otherwise is simply chug-a-lugging the Apple Kool-Aid.

The hype is being driven by the addition of the enterprise applications for the iPhone 3G, particularly its built-in support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. Sybase announced July 21 it was now offering wireless e-mail for Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange e-mail systems to support Apple's enterprise hopes. More enterprise applications are sure to follow.

But will the enterprises themselves fall in love with the iPhone? Or, for that matter, even flirt with it? After all, enterprise buying decisions are based on more than what's hot. Enterprise IT staffs are already deploying their smart phone of choice: Research In Motion's BlackBerry.

Beyond the BlackBerry, enterprises are already supporting and managing a wide variety of device types using different operating systems, including Windows Mobile, Palm and Symbian. Do they want to manage more? Particularly in the case of a device locked to one carrier: AT&T?

"It will be interesting to watch how much progress Apple makes in the enterprise. IT departments are a tough bunch, but they too can be swayed-at least to some extent-by cool new devices," wrote Carl Weinschenk at IT Business Edge.

According to Network World, any demand for the iPhone in the enterprise (and Network World doesn't see a lot) will come "from executives who receive the phone as a gift." But research company Forrester says in a new report IT departments are going to see increasing demand from employees who bring their own devices to work and want to access the enterprise network.

"This creates a nightmare for IT, security and audit professionals trying to maintain control, as well as report corporate information, which is now discoverable on a mobile device," writes the report author, Michele Pelino.

Nor are IT departments likely to be thrilled that most iPhone enterprise applications require a business to go through an Apple server. Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, wrote in a June research note that this approach "is generally unacceptable for mission-critical and/or proprietary apps."

Among other issues challenging Apple's daunting goal of cracking the enterprise market, Gold said, are the lack of a removable battery, the question of durability and the amount of service that would actually be required to deploy iPhones on an enterprise level.

Gold added, "Most enterprises should wait before broadly deploying and supporting the iPhone ... It is highly unlikely iPhone can meet compliance standards for full security and audit trail in regulated industries."

Moreover, some analysts say, Apple should be more concerned about the BlackBerry making a serious run at the consumer market rather than Apple making inroads in the enterprise. RIM expects to release its new BlackBerry Bold, which is as much aimed at consumers as enterprises, in the next few months.

"RIM is no longer a mobile office/e-mail player. It has evolved into a deeply embedded enterprise vendor, and we continue to push this as the key differentiator," Tom Rizzo, an analyst at The 451 Group, wrote in May. "So, while Apple, Nokia, Motorola and now HTC Corp. continue to compete on enterprise hardware designs, they cannot stack up to RIM in terms of the enterprise ecosystems RIM has in place."

Rizzo added, "This remains a crucial difference that will make competition here almost meaningless."