Apple

IT perspective: The pluses and minuses of iPhone 2.0

Apple has met enterprises halfway and it will be hard to not support the device in some way. Companies are unlikely to give it most favored device status, but they will quietly support it.
This is a guest post from Larry Dignan. You can read the original article on Larry's blog Between the Lines on TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet.

Apple launched a blitzkrieg of iPhone moves: You got a 3G iPhone, a cloud computing and storage service, and enterprise support. But there are also a few productivity killers in there that would make an IT exec step back.

What do you do?

To be sure, not every Apple advancement announced at the WWDC (all posts, keynote recap, Techmeme, video) will be an enterprise home run. But there's enough to make you seriously ponder iPhone support. And folks appear to be seriously pondering the iPhone. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said 35 percent of the Fortune 500 has been in the iPhone 2.0 beta.

Here's a rough look at the iPhone plusses and minuses before you start a deep-dive on the actual numbers:

Positives:
  • The per unit price of the iPhone is falling. The 3G iPhone will run you $199 for an 8GB model and $299 for a 16GB version (statement, all iPhone posts). That's a big drop from $399 and puts the iPhone on par with other corporate favorites from Research in Motion. Now it's a game of volume discounts.
  • The iPhone has full Exchange support, secure VPN and hooks to Microsoft and Cisco. Apple has removed the enterprise support knock.
  • Built-in GPS. One of the big features on the iPhone is built-in GPS. Apple has made location services a bit part of the next-generation iPhone. With a little development, you may be able to keep better track of your roving sales folks.
  • Enterprise app distribution: Job outlined how companies can distribute applications for themselves. Here's how it works: Enterprises authorize iPhones, create apps and then distribute them on an intranet so they only work on company iPhones. Apps are synched via iTunes. Novel, but notable enough to spark interest.
  • Support for Office docs. The iPhone supports Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Neutral:

  • MobileMe. Apple has introduced a .Mac replacement called MobileMe, which is a cloud-based service that synchs various devices (statement). Apple called it "Exchange for the rest of us." The problem for enterprises: Companies have invested heavily in Exchange. MobileMe may be handy for individuals, but may not be a huge selling point for CIOs.
  • Web 2.0 synch of interfaces. The linchpin of MobileMe is synching in a Web 2.0 AJAX interface. You can connect Outlook, Web and Mac apps natively. Could be helpful, but there's a problem. Corporations are just figuring out how they do the enterprise 2.0 jig.

Negative:

  • Games galore. For every application that would make a CIO say 'that could be useful' there was a demo of a time-wasting game. Simply put, the iPhone could be a productivity boon or bust. Sure you can do a lot of stuff on your BlackBerry that's not work related, the iPhone resembles the Sony PSP when fired up with games. Would you allow your users to tote a Sony PSP for work? That said there are handy business apps lying around too. However, Jobs keynote was games heavy enough to put this in the negative category for those not-so-forward-thinking CIOs.

Bottom line:

Apple has met enterprises halfway and it will be hard to not support the device in some way. Companies are unlikely to give it most favored device status, but they will quietly support it.

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