While RIM stumbled in its attempt to woo consumers with the Storm, the iPhone has been steadily building buzz over OS 3.0 (and rumored hardware). No doubt the new OS 3.0 features will improve the iPhone's practical usability, from Spotlight search to push notification to the landscape virtual keyboard to (wait for it) cut-and-paste. But it's the multitude of third-party business applications that has me wondering: How long until the iPhone pulls ahead of the BlackBerry with business users?
With the iPhone, we're talking about a handset that dominates the competition in the United States, one that has taken the release of dozens of "iPhone killers" in stride without so much as a glance (did you know there's even an iPhone Killer blog?). This is a handset that is constantly being utilized in ways that no smartphone has before -- as a medical device, as a translator for deployed troops, as a portable drive.
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Not to ignore the dozens upon dozens of productivity applications that already exist: apps that allow the user to print to networked printers, transmit files to and from a Mac, or handle HR requests on the fly. The iPhone has been shifting steadily into business territory, and that's only accelerated since the announcement of OS 3.0.
Just a week after launching the Android version, DataViz announced that iPhone users should keep their eyes peeled for an iPhone version of Documents to Go to arrive in May. If the comments on its Facebook page are any indication, this app is going to be more popular than a cheerleader at a kegger. Documents to Go allows users to edit and create Microsoft Word and Excel files and attachments as well as to download, open, and send attachments in Gmail and other e-mail applications. It can also access files stored on expansion cards, opens password-protected files securely, and keep a list of recently used docs for easy access. It even calls the alien mothership with your exact location -- or, it might, since DataViz is dropping hints about "exciting things" that haven't been announced yet.
While CTIA saw the QuickOffice folks announcing their premium-priced productivity suite for the iPhone, both applications would be eclipsed by a Microsoft Office application. Last week vague rumblings began about a Microsoft Office app coming to the iPhone, which caused a thousand geeks to squeal with delight before exec Stephen Elop furiously backpeddled with "not yet, keep watching." Um, Stephen? That's what we've been doing.
Perhaps all these apps are simply filling the needs of thousands of iPhone users who would have been better served by a RIM handset. Perhaps there is some dark horse in the running that will blow them both out of the race (ahem, Pre). Or perhaps, despite the haters, the iPhone is steadily growing in business adoption for a reason: user demand. And that doesn't show any sign of slowing.