Enterprise mobile: It's not about the device

18 Jun 2008

If nothing else, the new iPhone is certainly stimulating the smartphone market; both Samsung and Nokia have unveiled new business devices in the last week.

The pending arrival of iPhone 2.0 has also stirred debate about its role in the enterprise.

The new device has taken on board many of the complaints from CIOs about the first product. It syncs with Outlook, delivers push email with HTML and beefed-up security, and of course it has HSDPA and GPS.

But IT managers still point to the missing physical keyboard and the absence of a cut-and-paste function and remote wipe.

The enterprise-friendlier iPhone comes at a time when many new corporate IT technologies are being pioneered by consumers - instant messaging, VoIP, Web 2.0 and social media, to name a few.

But hot consumer mobile products don't necessarily translate well to the corporate environment. In the enterprise market the iPhone is back in the pack behind BlackBerry, which actually increased its lead in the US market in Q1, according to IDC.

The enterprise market will challenge Apple. Meanwhile, IT organizations themselves will be tested over the next five years by how they accommodate devices.

Users are not looking to replicate their desktop on their mobile phone. They need to be able to carry out many of the same functions, like check email and read and edit documents, and to sync easily.

For the time being they are not expecting the same experience.

Which means not falling in the trap of some Windows Mobile platforms, which manage to stuff dozens of apps into a single, not terribly friendly device.

Apple's problem illuminates the difference between the consumers and enterprise market. For ordinary punters, it's all about the phone. The enterprise market is driven by two things: the ability to interwork with the corporate VPN and apps, and security.

BlackBerry scores well on both of these. Apple needs to demonstrate its security smarts before it will become trusted in the enterprise.

But there's one are where it could be setting the pace, and that's MobileMe, the iPhone back-end unveiled with the new phone last week.

It's a cloud utility configuration, but using wireless networks to allow users to sync their calendars, email and even photo albums over the air. That's surely a forerunner of things to come.

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