Fear and Loathing in IT: iPhone and Macintosh

Opinion: Everyone seems to agree that the iPhone and the enterprise don't mix. Everyone but users. Can IT managers stand up to the increasing pressure of a culture clash over computing platforms?

The ranks of enterprise IT appear to be arrayed shoulder to shoulder—in Roman Legion-style—against the invasion of the iPhone likely to start within days after Apple releases the device on June 29.

However, the defense may be futile. After all, the horde carrying the forthcoming Apple phone wont be barbarians; rather, the very folks doing the work, and worse, some may well be the boss.

How evil is the iPhone to the enterprise? So much so that it seems to send the blood boiling.

"The iPhone is—and I cant stress this enough—not an enterprise-class device," Benjamin Gray, analyst for Infrastructure & Operations with Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., told eWEEK.com. The analyst didnt deny Apples innovation and predicted the move will drive enterprise-class device manufacturers to produce more "consumer-friendly smart phones, which will drive the next wave of adoption over the next few years." Yet, June 2007 wasnt the time.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read reasons why the iPhone will/wont succeed.

Gray ran down a long list of iPhone deficits: the lack of support for business e-mail, such as Microsofts Exchange and Research In Motions BlackBerry services; the lack of third-party applications; a high price tag; and limited support from service providers.

"Nor does it come with tools for IT to secure the data on the device through encryption or the ability to remotely lock or wipe a lost or stolen device. I find it hard to believe that many IT managers will mistake the iPhone for a business device for these reasons," Gray said.

But this shared understanding by IT isnt the issue. Instead, its those pesky users—and worse, those pesky bosses. They just dont get it.

This culture clash between enterprise users and the IT department keeps growing. The analyst company Gartner calls this trend "consumerization," where the consumers of a technology drive its adoption into the enterprise, rather than coming from IT. The iPhone is just the latest candidate for contention over computing environments.

At the April Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco, the turf war looked to be the notebook computer. In simple terms: Who will own the corporate notebook in the future, the company or the workers?

During a presentation on client machines, Gartner Research Vice President Steve Kleynhans said the expectations of many users in the enterprise have changed. The PC generation, who were teenagers a decade ago, now are the "MBA hotshots running major projects for your organization."

"The users today arent looking to the IT group to tell them what technology can do. They know what it can do. What they look for is guidance on making it work," Kleynhans said.

However, to these new customers, the current IT experience "stands for the inhibitor of technology," Kleynhans said. He observed that there is a basic conflict growing between the pushing clients and the IT traffic cops.

At the same time, IT organizations are still charged with the delivery and security of the computing resources. Thats a tough mission.

So, this cultural conflict over the client platform will play out with Apples iPhone.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read why you can expect to see iPhone-style features turning up in competing handsets.

Gartner is also advising its clients to forgo the iPhone. But Van Baker, a Gartner vice president, admitted to me that keeping out the device will be a difficult task for IT.

"People are going to bring these things in, and IT is going to have to figure out how to deal with them. Especially when its a C-level exec who brings the thing in, who thinks its cool and wants to read his e-mail—IT will have to figure out how to make it work," Baker said.

He added that IT objected to Windows when it first arrived.

"Now, if we look at the list of technologies that IT has successfully stopped from coming into the enterprise—which has absolutely nothing on it—you realize this is a losing battle. You cant stop this stuff from coming in," he said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about the hurdles the iPhone faces in infiltrating the enterprise.

Baker suggested that a proactive stance will be a more reasonable position for IT to take on nonstandard technologies such as the iPhone: determine how to make it all work without corrupting the corporate database and applying the appropriate policies.

The e-mail connectivity for iPhone users can be accomplished via IMAP, although it wont be the most elegant solution, according to Baker. "But it will work."

[IT departments] need to understand there are potential benefits. And the likelihood they can stop this is almost nonexistent," he said.

Next Page: The typical "rogue" user and a possible Mac connection.