Mobility

10 years supporting Apple's iconic iPhone: An IT consultant's reflections

Apple's iPhone celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2017. The revolutionary device not only reset smartphone expectations, but it introduced an entirely new BYOD paradigm. Erik Eckel explains.

As an IT consultant responsible for supporting everything from an organization's cabling and VoIP needs to desktops and servers, few tasks used to generate as much anxiety as deploying a new smartphone. That is, until Apple released its iconic iPhone and changed everyone's expectations as to how a smartphone should work and how easy such devices can be to configure and administer.

Before Apple released the first iPhone in June 2007, technology professionals struggled navigating cumbersome, complex, and often nonsensical menus just trying to connect a smartphone to corporate mail servers. I will always remember the relief felt when successfully completing sending and receiving mail on such devices because, when an error occurred, fixes commonly proved elusive and vexing.

BlackBerry models, in particular, were a challenge especially for small businesses. In many cases, an entire additional server and licensing were required to manage the BlackBerry devices' mail flow. Further, many organizations proved dependent upon the third-party RIM network to route messages, and let's just say that network didn't always prove reliable. Supporting such phones often proved an unwelcome nightmare.

Then the iPhone was released. The elegant phone with a full touchscreen was easy to use and, better yet, the device worked reliably. Menus were intuitive. The display-based keypad worked well and required little adjustment to begin using effectively. And, thanks to an application-based environment, users and organizations could leverage a wide and fast-growing assortment of independent third-party applications to fulfill a variety of business needs.

SEE: Gallery: The iPhone's journey to its 10-year anniversary (TechRepublic)

While some initially viewed Apple's smartphone only as an overpriced and glorified iPod, and Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer famously laughed at the iPhone's introduction, those dismissals quickly proved misguided and shortsighted. Apple has proceeded to sell over 1 billion iPhones and claim as much as 30 times or more of the market share owned by Windows and BlackBerry phones.

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Image: Apple Inc.

The resulting fallout truly proved revolutionary. The iPhone launched an entire new industry of iOS application development that saw developers earn $20 billion in 2016 alone. And, Apple is correctly credited by many as having introduced the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend of the past decade. Essentially, Apple devices proved so popular that millions of users and executives began insisting on using the devices within their organizations, so much so that, even when only other devices were officially provided and supported, IT departments consistently found the devices in use on their network and gave in and begin supporting Apple's iteration. Ultimately, the iPhone's growth occurred at the expense of Windows and BlackBerry devices.

SEE: BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Policy (Tech Pro Research)

As an IT professional that had configured more than his share of email accounts on everything from Palm Treos to a variety of BlackBerry and Windows Mobile models, the Apple iPhone proved a breath of fresh air. As iOS tweaks and new models appeared, the phone became much more prevalent among the organizations my consulting firm supported. Soon iPhones began requiring less than 20 or 30 seconds to securely connect to a properly configured Exchange server. I'd previously seen occasions where hours were required to perform the same action on competing models due to having to update an additional enterprise server, troubleshoot licensing or a variety of unique errors, and/or waiting for the RIM network to return to operation during an outage.

First-hand evidence collected over 11 years supporting thousands of users at numerous companies demonstrates how the iPhone definitively made it easier for employees to remain in touch while on the go, remotely connect to offices and continue fulfilling professional responsibilities while traveling. The innovation, simplicity, reliability, and flexibility baked into the iPhone are what make it the game-changing device it is.

There are many lessons to be gleaned from Apple's iPhone—business schools will be teaching case studies of the device, and competitors' quick dismissals of it, for generations to come. But the facts are, basically, quite simple: Apple built a better, equally secure model that was easier to use and that worked reliably, all while also offering customers the ability to download and use a variety of applications the user or user's business decided it wanted or needed, not just those program Apple chose to develop itself for its customers.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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