Apple's plans for iPhone Enterprise Server revealed

Bootleg download from anonymous source provides details of centralized management server for the popular Apple handset

Editor's note: The following story is from InfoWorld's 2008 April Fool’s spoof-news feature package. It is not true. Enjoy!

Recently, I was contacted by a person who must remain nameless. In fact, I still can't be sure who it was. It started with an anonymous IM from "RIMshot1052," saying he had some code I needed to see. Boy, did he ever.

He gave me a link to a ZIP file named iPEnIS-b3324.zip. I downloaded and unzipped it on an Exchange 2007 server in the lab and started poking around. Immediately, I knew this was a big deal. This was Apple's iPhone Enterprise Infrastructure Server.

Eyes wide and fingers trembling, I ran the installer (which took all of 5 minutes to complete) and then launched the management tool. The bulk of the configuration had already been done, and all I needed to do was bind an iPhone to the server -- but how would that work? As it turns out, the iPEnIS client is already installed on every iPhone running the latest code, but it's hidden. To launch it for the first time, all you need to do is play "Don't Fear the Reaper" by the Blue Öyster Cult, and at exactly 45 seconds into the song, rotate the phone 360 degrees, and then unplug the headphones. Voila. I entered the server settings, and watched as my iPhone was detected on the server. Couldn't be simpler. Oddly, as soon as the connection was made, "Don't Fear the Reaper" stopped playing and Ram Jam's "Black Betty" started up. I can't quite explain that one.

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Anyway, I suddenly had complete access to all Exchange functions right from my iPhone, from calendaring to public folders to e-mail. Not only that, but the iPEnIS installer also detected my VoIP PBX and configured it to allow for visual voice mail access via the Exchange server.

I only had the one iPhone connected, but I started looking into the mass management options. Since I had no manual, it was mostly trial and error, but I did discover several interesting and somewhat puzzling features. First, I discovered that it was possible to trigger the iPhone's camera and microphone from the admin console, and ship video back to my system. I would think that in reality this would result in close-ups of pockets and purses, but in the right (wrong?) hands, it could prove to be extremely handy, if perhaps a bit intrusive. 

Another feature was the ability to add, edit, and modify play lists on each connected iPhone individually, or as a group. In concert with the file sharing features, it's possible to distribute music, video, ring tones, or anything to any phone and force play list changes. In fact, if you wanted to fill an iPhone with Neil Diamond's Greatest Hits, and set the ring tone to "Sweet Caroline," it's not only possible, it's very simple. Of course, you can also prevent the user from changing these settings, so much like Group Policies on Windows systems, you can configure and enforce nearly every aspect of the iPhone right from the iPEnIS console.

Unfortunately, my testing was cut short. I found a buried command called "SD (experimental)." I gave it a shot, heard the first few bars of the "Mission: Impossible" theme, and then watched in horror as my brand-new 16GB iPhone burst into flames, catching my desk on fire. I ran from the lab to get a fire extinguisher, and by the time I got the flames under control, my iPhone was toast, along with much of the lab, including the workstation that had been running the iPEnIS server in a VM.

Frantic, I looked for backups, but none existed. Given the destructive nature of this command, I would have hoped that it would require some kind of confirmation, but it didn't. Since I couldn't locate another copy of the code, I checked the link that RIMshot1052 had sent, but the server didn't respond.

While it's too bad I can't do further testing, what I did see was enough to make me believe that Apple is concentrating on the enterprise once again, and will try to push iPEnIS into datacenters worldwide. Time will tell.

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