Is Apple's iPhone 2.0 Good Enough For Enterprises?

Some feel Apple needs to do much more to make the iPhone business-ready.

A developer of enterprise mobility software has expressed doubts that Apple's iPhone can cut it in the enterprise due to a number of issues, all of which Apple can change, but in doing so are anathema to how the company operates.

Ahmed Datoo, vice president of marketing of Zenprise, a developer of software for enterprise BlackBerry users, said he would welcome the opportunity to support the iPhone in the enterprise but has his doubts it will make much headway.

"The question that needs to be asked is, is the 2.0 software going to be good enough to take on RIM at the enterprise level?" he told "It doesn't look it. Is it good enough to get at the small and medium-sized business market? Probably. They have different requirements."

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) did not return calls seeking comment for this story. The company had its big enterprise roadmap event last week where it unveiled details of its software development kit (SDK) and support for Microsoft's Exchange Server. CRM and Saas provider announced support for the iPhone and two large corporate customers, biotech giant Genentech and Nike, said they already had iPhone deployments underway.

"The iPhone is a watershed event in mobile computing for corporations," said Todd Pierce, vice president, of corporate IT at Genentech, in a statement. "Genentech’s pilot with iPhone has shown its potential to be the most useful business mobility tool we’ve ever used. We now have 3,000 planned for deployment based on how easy and simple it was to integrate iPhone with our corporate email system."

IDC analyst Sean Ryan, said Apple's support of Exchange was important to get the iPhone consideration among enterprise buyers, but nothing special. He notes that Nokia, Palm, Symbian, HTC and other mobile players already support Exchange and its ActiveSync technology for connecting to corporate email systems.

"In the mobile enterprise it's not just about the devise, but about the platform and the support system," said Ryan. "The iPhone has a lot of cachet, but there are many challenges to wide corporate adoption. It's a premium-priced device with limited device management." With Exchange, IT can shut down an iPhone that's lost or stolen, but other mobile devices have more extensive management capabilities.

Ryan also said the market for enterprises devices like smart phones is still at a very early stage and the iPhone is very new. "Apple has an opportunity but RIM, Nokia, Microsoft and others aren't going to sit still."

Datoo of Zenprise laid out four distinct areas he thinks Apple must overcome to make the iPhone a true success in the enterprise. The problems range from technical to perceptual. The first is that Apple is viewed as a consumer product, and firms that play in both spaces, consumer and enterprise, use separate brands. "It's rare to see a company pulling off operating in the enterprise space and consumer space with the same product," said Datoo.

The second is support. Apple is a relatively small company with modest support infrastructure. Where would an enterprise customer go for help, AT&T or Apple? Over the years, RIM built out a significant support structure, which Apple will need. "To be a mainstay in the enterprise, you need a support model conducive to an enterprise model," said Datoo.

The third problem is security. The iPhone's internals are not documented or exposed. Datoo said it's not even possible to get at basic internals, like the battery levels or signal strength meters. Many features, like Bluetooth and the camera, can't be locked down. Also, the iPhone is managed through iTunes, which many enterprises have banned from their computers. None of this, he said, will sit well with enterprise customers.

Finally, there is support. Datoo cited a Gartner study that put total cost of ownership for a mobile phone at between $1,300 and $2,600, with about 50 percent of that cost going to IT and user administration. iPhone has no remote administration features, no visibility into the device, which means a lot more time would be needed to be spent diagnosing problems.

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