Few disagree that, with the iPhone, Apple changed users’ expectations of devices and how they interact with them-in short, mobility. Whether the iPhone is a fit for the enterprise, however, is a topic that provokes debate.
Forrester Research released a report on April 10, “Making iPhone Work in the Enterprise: Early Lessons Learned,” in which report author Ted Schadler offers the experiences of three enterprises-Kraft Foods, Oracle and a California-based pharmaceuticals company-that have adopted iPhones.
Each example offers the pros and cons of the experience, but the report-which points out challenges to avoid, as well as advice for properly planning cultural, support and provisioning changes-is in favor of iPhone adoption within enterprises.
Ultimately, Schadler suggests that the security concerns that prevented adoption are no longer valid for some companies, particularly with the iPhone 3.0 addressing many of the remaining concerns, such as forcing a user to sign into the VPN each time, instead of automatically signing her in.
The IT staff at Kraft Foods saw iPhone adoption as a way of proving to its work force that it was serious about introducing new tools and technologies in support of them, and in April 2008 it became a part of Apple’s iPhone Enterprise Beta program.
“Every time Apple puts out a new release on the consumer side, they’re very private about it,” explained Schadler. “On the software side they’ve been much more open. The way companies work is, they want to know what’s going on and want to be part of a vetting program.”
The Enterprise Beta program, Schadler said, is a way of addressing this.
“Enterprises want to see themselves as partners, they want to be involved,” Schadler added. “IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, for example, have become much more open about sharing the next version and what it’s going to happen.”
Apple, he said, began to do this with the iPhone 2.0.
As of this past January, almost half of Kraft Foods’ mobile team were using iPhones-a number Schadler pointed out is significant, given that mobile adoption at that stage is generally 10 percent, with 20 percent being the higher end-and about 400 new iPhones are being ordered each month.
Among the benefits Kraft is seeing is a change in the culture of the company to take advantage of new technologies; among the challenges were problems with calendar synchronization.
iPhone at Oracle
IT at Oracle put its focus on the iPhone after employees purchasing their own devices began asking for e-mail and calendar support. In June 2007 it began supporting e-mail for the iPhone 2G, and by January 2009 it had 4,000 iPhones deployed globally.
For Oracle’s IT team, the iPhone’s development platform and user interface enable the creation of collaboration and business applications for employees. On the down side, management tools are lacking and VPN password caching has been an issue-though both of these are expected to be resolved with the iPhone 3.0.
The pharmaceutical company, which began with a pilot program of 20 employees in July 2008 and expects to have 650 users on the iPhone by December 2009, was also frustrated by the VPN password caching issue, as well as battery life issues.
When you’re using a device for e-mail, battery life isn’t an issue, said Schadler. “But if you’re also surfing the Internet or using it for corporate applications, nothing will last doing that.”
How was the issue addressed? “They’re trickle-feeding,” said Schadler. “They’re telling people to plug in their devices when they’re at their desks.”
Despite the battery issues, the pharmaceutical company said it’s paying $360 per device per year on voice and data plans, versus what it was spending on BlackBerry devices.
Research In Motion of late has worked to transition from being solely an enterprise device provider and to better pique the interest of consumers, while Apple has worked toward exactly the reverse. If, with the iPhone 3.0, Apple has accomplished this, where does that leave the BlackBerry?
“For messaging, for calendar, [the BlackBerry is] the best device. [Research In Motion] is doing everything right in so many ways,” said Schadler. “But they need to step up a few things. The first is the browser.”
Even with the BlackBerry Storm? “The browser is adequate,” said Schadler, “but it’s not a pleasure to use.”
Second, he said, “they have to do a more aggressive job of making this attractive for developers. And Apple is not developer-friendly, but they’ve got 25,000 apps.”
Schadler concedes that RIM now has the BlackBerry App World open, and the company is making progress on this front. And also, in speaking with IT departments about the iPhone, there are still security concerns they’ll highlight, which make the iPhone still right for some enterprises but not others, such as financial companies.
“[IT departments] will highlight that the configuration files were hackable, that you can’t turn off the camera. … Apple says, in its list of feature functions, those things will be fixed with 3.0,” said Schadler.
“For these companies we spoke with, though, these weren’t deal breakers.”