I'm an Apple advocate. I use a MacBook Pro. I leverage an iPad in the field. I carry an iPhone mated to my consultancy's Exchange server. But I'm no FaceTime believer.
Apple's new FaceTime feature, included in the new iPhone 4, enables users to conduct video telephone calls using their new iPhones. According to Apple's marketing copy, "with the tap of a button, you can wave hello to your kids, share a smile from across the globe, or watch your best friend laugh at your stories."
Don't get me wrong. Those are cool uses for a cell phone. I just don't see much of a legitimate business need for such a feature in the enterprise. Large distributed organizations with remote offices likely already have a dedicated video conferencing solution in place, anyway. There's no need to reinvent the wheel, especially using a cell phone technology that's dependent upon Wi-Fi networks to fuel the video communications.
Those organizations that might wish to enable FaceTime operation face a dilemma. Numerous and potentially dangerous ports must be opened to allow FaceTime communications. An Apple support article updated in late June notes that, on Wi-Fi networks that use a firewall, port forwarding must be enabled for ports 53, 80 (80!), 443, 4080, 5223 and 16393 to 16472. That's a lot of doors to open for a feature that's arguably an element best used by consumers outside the office.
Apple's done a lot of things right. iPhone popularity is proof. But there's no reason enterprise administrators should feel pressured to update hardened firewall configurations, thereby lessening security on carefully secured networks, to accommodate the video-calling feature. IT professionals should feel no remorse saying "no" to requests to open FaceTime's necessary ports on restricted wireless networks. Further, I suspect many enterprise admins will just say no, sans the guilt.
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 of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.