Under mounting pressure in the competitive Smartphone market, Apple last week unveiled the iPhone 3.0 software ahead of its expected summer release. Paul Mah sieves through the reports to evaluate how it measures up in the enterprise.
I first wrote about the features in Apple's iPhone in June last year. In "Enterprise, Meet the iPhone," I examined the various enterprise-centric features found in the iPhone 3G, aka iPhone 2.0.
Today, I take a closer look at the various reports on the iPhone 3.0 software unveiled by Apple just last week. Compared with the iPhone 2.0, how well exactly does it measure up in the enterprise?Hardware API
Hidden in the myriad reports on the iPhone 3.0 is the information that Apple is broadening support for its APIs for hardware accessories. In fact, a glucose monitor for diabetics was demonstrated in last week's preview event. Based on the results of blood samples and data on diet and exercise, an application on the iPhone will compute a recommended insulin dose. Now think in terms of barcode scanners, portable printers, and RFID readers.Push notification, again
I wrote about it at length in my earlier blog on the iPhone, so I won't go through the full details again. Suffice to say, as I pointed out then, push notification seemed to be an imitation of RIM's BlackBerry NOC implementation. Apple promised to deliver it in September 2008, though it famously never came to be.
Now that push notification is finally mentioned again, it is a good bet that it will definitely appear this time. I won't bet on the uptime of this service though. For one, even Apple isn't making any promises on uptime for the service, drawing a comparison instead to the fact that even SMS service isn't 100 percent reliable when questioned.LDAP and CalDAV
Finally, Apple adds the ability to add an LDAP account. No other details were provided. This is a feature that could well be useless to some, vital to others. Ditto for CalDAV.Modem tethering
Well, the iPhone supports modem tethering now. Honestly, I thought this "feature" looked almost pathetic, if only by its sheer lateness. Indeed, I am hard-pressed to think of other smartphones that do not have inherent support for modem tethering. As usual, the modem tethering in iPhone 3.0 will be subject to individual carriers to implement (or not) .Spotlight search
A new global Spotlight search feature has been added for users to quickly find launch applications, as well as to search for content across all applications. At this point, it is not known whether it supports server-side searches for e-mails, which is long available in competing platforms such as RIM's BlackBerry smartphones and Microsoft's Windows Mobile.Security and policies
Previous implementations of security policies appear to be simply a way for Apple to add it onto the list of available features. This time around, Apple has indicated the presence of over-the-air profiles and encrypted profiles — instead of the unencrypted XML files of earlier versions. The devil is in the details though, so the iPhone 3.0's strength in this area remains to be seen. At the moment though, there is no indication that the data stored in an iPhone are encrypted in any form.Conclusion
Unlike iPhone 2.0, what we can glimpse of the iPhone 3.0 so far makes it apparent that a similar leap in terms of enterprise integration is nowhere in the making. What it does offer is a number of incremental and very positive improvements in the right direction.
Certainly, users who already want to use the iPhone in the enterprise will have more reasons than ever to do that. However, its enterprise-centric features still lag notably behind that of BlackBerry and Windows Mobile smartphones.
With BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 due to be unveiled in May and Windows Mobile 7.0 expected early next year, there are a lot of developments on the enterprise smartphone front, so stay tuned.