It took three years and three generations for Apple to finally get it right, but it looks like the iPhone is finally ready to take on Research In Motion in the enterprise. The iPhone software Version 3.0 features some of the most enterprise-friendly features we’ve seen in any iPhone to date. And its focus on design, apps and a full-featured experience ensures it will continue to be a major player in the space going forward.
Of course, RIM can’t be happy about it. That company is currently leading in the enterprise without much competition from other companies. According to the company in its 2009 Annual Report, “The enterprise market continues to be very important to RIM’s business.” It claimed in that report that more than 175,000 organizations are now using BlackBerry Enterprise Server behind a corporate firewall. Its healthiest user base growth has come from the government, law enforcement, health care and education sectors. And with the help of two new BlackBerry devices released over the past year-the BlackBerry Bold and the BlackBerry Storm-the company is doing its part to stay ahead.
But is it enough? Apple has slowly, but surely, made progress with its iPhone. When it was first released in 2007, it had few enterprise-friendly features. Last year, with its iPhone 3G, it added faster network connectivity and an App Store that allowed developers to create business-focused apps. But it wasn’t until Apple finally announced the iPhone 3.0 software that the enterprise took notice. It features push e-mail, calendar, and contacts; Exchange support; copy and paste; Spotlight search; voice memos; and an improved calendar. It’s a more capable software package.
It also doesn’t help RIM that Apple is releasing the iPhone 3G S. That device is reportedly twice as fast as the current iPhone 3G. And at a price that’s relatively affordable-$199 for the base model-it’s not a stretch to say the iPhone 3G S is the most attractive iPhone yet.
But just how attractive is that iPhone? Let’s dig a little deeper to see why it’s the best choice for the enterprise when it hits store shelves next week.
The New Features
Say what you will about the BlackBerry and its enterprise support, but with the inclusion of push e-mail, calendar and contacts in the new iPhone, it’s immediately more attractive than previous versions of the software. And thanks to Exchange support, more companies will find reasons to use it. But there’s one feature that the iPhone finally has that makes it all the more appealing to the enterprise: tethering.
The Importance of the App
Tethering has been a common feature in most BlackBerry devices for quite some time. Users can attach their smartphones to a PC via USB and share its Internet connection with the computer, giving it access to the Web. It’s a feature that many in the business world require to get their job done. And it has been a conspicuous omission in previous iterations of the iPhone software. But now, it’s available in the new iPhone software version, and companies are undoubtedly taking notice.
The App Store
There’s no debating that the iPhone is now capable of providing an experience that’s similar to what RIM has been offering with its BlackBerry devices for years. But that doesn’t necessarily make it more appealing. At most, the new iPhone software version puts it on par with what RIM already offers. Realizing that, it’s necessary that the enterprise find those features that make the iPhone more appealing before it can decide which device it should use next. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the Apple App Store.
RIM has a relatively new app store called the BlackBerry App World. It’s growing. But at this point, it doesn’t match Apple’s store on any level. According to Apple in its keynote earlier this week at the World Wide Developers Conference, its store now has over 50,000 apps. Some are free and others are paid. A quick glance at the “Business” listing of apps in the store reveals 57 pages of free and paid apps. That’s more than 1,000 apps designed specifically for the iPhone that appeals in some way to the business world. And in my experience, many of those apps (I’m looking at you, QuickOffice) are ideal for what businesses are doing.
Apple’s App Store extends the functionality of the device far beyond anything RIM can do with its own stable of apps from the BlackBerry App World. It’s a real issue for RIM-and a real advantage for Apple.
RIM’s BlackBerry is expensive. Even with a two-year contract, the BlackBerry Bold costs $249.99. The BlackBerry Storm will set users back $199.99. Compare that to the iPhone 3G’s price tag of $99 and the iPhone 3G S’s baseline price tag of $199, and it quickly becomes clear that for your money, you’re getting far more from the iPhone than the BlackBerry. Consumers already know that. How long will it take before the enterprise finds out too?
You can bet it won’t be long. Once the iPhone software Version 3.0 is released and the iPhone 3G S hits store shelves, the enterprise will finally have the software it needs to make the switch to the iPhone. It won’t be easy and there will be some issues along the way, but rest assured that the iPhone is the future in the enterprise. And RIM and its competitors better take notice.