Enterprise bans on iPhones may be lifted with the announcement on Thursday that the iPhone will support Microsoft Exchange e-mail.
When the iPhone initially came out, some enterprises banned workers from using it for fear of security problems that could come with users accessing their corporate e-mail from the devices. But with Apple's licensing of ActiveSync, Exchange e-mail can be securely pushed out to iPhones.
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Apple joins a host of other prominent phone makers, including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and Motorola, among ActiveSync licensees.
The Exchange capability is being released as part of a beta of the iPhone 2.0 on Thursday to hundreds of companies. Apple expects to ship the new software as a free update to iPhone customers in late June.
It apparently took a long time for the rival companies to hammer out the agreement. Microsoft started talking to Apple about licensing ActiveSync before the launch of the iPhone last year, said Terry Myerson, corporate vice president for Exchange, in a statement.
In addition to e-mail, ActiveSync will allow iPhone users to sync calendar items and contacts from their Exchange accounts to their phones. In addition, the iPhone will support the remote wipe feature of ActiveSync, so if a user loses the phone, sensitive data can remotely be erased from the device.
E-mail is likely the first of many enterprise applications that Apple will support in the iPhone, said Stephen Drake, an analyst at IDC. "This is the start," he said.
He doesn't expect that the iPhone Exchange capability will significantly affect sales of other dominant mobile e-mail platforms like BlackBerry or Windows Mobile. "This raises the level of interest," he said.
Plus, despite all the buzz about mobile e-mail, the use of it now is quite small. There are hundreds of millions of e-mail boxes and 3 billion phones in the world, yet the number of mobile e-mail subscribers is in the double-digit millions, he said. "There's plenty of room to grow. I don't think anyone will be taken out by this," Drake said.
The agreement should also give a boost to Exchange. "It's just making Exchange more sticky and ubiquitous," Drake said.