It seems that each new generation of iPhone sees a deluge of reports touting how it’s “finally” ready for the enterprise. Now, I’m not saying that the iPhone is no good; on the contrary, I think that it’s an extremely attractive form factor and its intuitive usability raised the bar for the smartphone market as a whole.
However, the iPhone does suffer from a couple of glaring weaknesses that puts it at a poor second or even third placing in the enterprise arena, behind more established devices such as BlackBerry and Windows Mobile smartphones.
Here’s a brief comparison of the crucial issues.
Data efficiency of the BlackBerry
The announcement of the iPhone 3G S heralded a more in-depth implementation of Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync, expanding Apple’s implementation from just e-mail to also include contacts and calendar synchronization. This is a huge improvement and finally brings the iPhone to what I consider the bare minimum for a business smartphone device.
However, the above improvement suffers from the fact that the Exchange ActiveSync protocol, while ingenious in its own right, is a lot less data efficient than RIMs. I presented a general overview of the difference between Microsoft’s implementation versus the BlackBerry at my personal blog recently; if you are more technically inclined, you will probably want to access the findings of an earlier research that measured the data usage of both implementations.
And while it is true that few will bother about the technical merits, the difference will be evident in mobile bills of enterprises with traveling executives and other staff. So until telecommunication vendors start offering unlimited overseas data plans, organizations running on BlackBerry smartphones will find themselves saving huge amounts due to the higher data efficiency of the BlackBerry.
Installing third-party software
Most reports on the iPhone cite the huge lead that the Apple App Store has over RIM’s fledgling BlackBerry App World, concluding, correctly, that Apple has the distinct edge here. Such a comparison is hardly pertinent when it comes to the enterprise, however, which is more interested in business-centric solutions rather than the offerings of the consumer marketplace.
But what really throws a wrench in the works is the fact that most organizations will demand the ability to roll-out in-house developments without having to go through a cumbersome third-party submission process. “Jailbreaking,” while apparently acceptable to some groups of consumers, is hardly a solution that can be considered in the enterprise.
In addition, an enterprise implementation of the BlackBerry platform allows applications to be pushed out to a BlackBerry smartphone at any time. With the latest upgrades, this ability has been extended all the way down to the operating-system level. These are features that are notably absent from the iPhone, which can only lead to it being a poor choice for any form of large-scale deployment.
Weak enterprise management
The latest iPhone finally has the ability to perform a remote wipe. However, there are few other enterprise-centric controls beyond that. On the other hand, the BlackBerry has extremely detailed configuration options that can be managed individually or in groups of thousands of devices.
Stacked against an existing implementation of BlackBerry smartphones, the iPhone looks like a wide-open and unsecured device where confidential data can be siphoned out in so many ways.
While the iPhone is an excellent smartphone, it doesn’t fare as well in terms of enterprise readiness, depending on how strict your criteria are for business purposes. For now, the BlackBerry still stands head and shoulders above it.
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