The iPhone Is Closer Than You Think

Apple's much-coveted device could be a few tweaks away from a corporate device.

Since the iPhone's much-heralded debut in the summer of 2007, Apple has pitched the wildly popular product squarely at consumers. But the enthusiasm of some early users has put what some see as the handwriting on the wall: With a few tweaks-some major-the iPhone could be a very serious contender for corporate personal device of choice.

Such a scenario gained credibility in late 2007 when software giant SAP announced it would port the client software for its CRM (customer relationship management) application to the iPhone, simply because its own sales staff was clamoring for it.

"When it first came out, we got one to test," said Rob Israel, CIO of John C. Lincoln Health Network, who was not alone among IT pros in his curiosity about the device. However, lackluster e-mail and security features are causing him to keep the iPhone at arm's length.

"I'm concerned about its ability to support push technology as well as pull [for e-mail], and wiping it remotely [for security]," said Israel.

Even so, it's no secret what's keeping the iPhone outside the corporate walls-and what it would take for IT to lower the drawbridge and let it in. Those deficiencies, and more, are keeping the iPhone outside of the corporate walls.

Forrester Research analyst Ben Gray compiled a laundry list of deficiencies in a recent advisory to clients recommending they keep the iPhone at bay. Among them:

  • The iPhone doesn't natively support push e-mail or over-the-air calendar synchronization.
  • There is a dearth of third-party applications for the iPhone.
  • The iPhone does not support file or disk encryption.
  • IT administrators cannot set password policies, a feature offered on mainstream competing devices.
  • Should it be lost or stolen, the iPhone cannot be remotely locked or wiped.
  • The iPhone is available only in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, where exclusive carrier deals are in place.
  • The iPhone's battery is not removable. A dead battery calls for a new-and expensive-iPhone.
  • The touch-screen user interface means slower typing than with a tactile keypad.