Gartner, IDC, and 451 Group research analysts, this week warned IT administrators to keep iPhones away from their businesses. "We're telling IT executives to not support it because Apple has no intentions of supporting [iPhone use in] the enterprise," Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said. "This is basically a cellular iPod with some other capabilities, and it's important that it be recognized as such."
As if that will stop people from buying them anyway when they hit the market in the U.S. next week.
The reality is that no matter how hard IT administrators try, the iPhone will be snapped up by their employees -- and not just the average Joes either. The device is a status symbol that will likely be snapped up by business leaders as the digital technorati. Try telling your CEO the iPhone doesn't play well with your IT systems.
Dulaney and other researchers notwithstanding, this device can be good for the enterprise because of the business needs of smartphone users.
It is an iPhone, after all, with an emphasis on phone. It offers e-mail -- currently the most popular means of business communications. There's an address/phone Book for quick access to contacts. It offers SMS, a quick way to contact other mobile phone users, and voicemail -- both useful to road warriors. There's a real Web browser -- by far the most underpowered and underappreciated part of a mobile phone. And it contains a slew of enterprise-worthy apps, including a calendar, access to maps, spreadsheets, and a document reader.
All of these things are important -- and all can be done to a greater or lesser extent on most business-focused PDA phones. But in the business world, the mobile Web browser is the key to the future of business apps, and it is becoming a platform unto itself. One thing that Apple CEO Steve Jobs made abundantly clear at last week's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is that the iPhone would include a full browser. The Symbian and Linux platforms' best browser is Opera Mini -- which isn't that bad -- but it by no means constitutes a full browser. Windows Mobile's browser isn't bad either, but it also falls well short of Internet Explorer 7. Additionally, the iPhone browser has a lot of zooming and panning tricks that make it more usable on the relatively small screen. In that crucial area, advantage: iPhone.
Why is the browser crucial? Because most new business applications are being built around it. AJAX and other browser technology innovations over the past few years have turned the browser into a veritable platform.
Sure, a lot of legacy applications still require browserless, platform-specific client applications. But those days are numbered.
It's not just the isolated applications that are moving to a browser. All of the stalwart office applications are also moving to the Web. With Google Office (which now works with Safari -- the iPhone browser), Soho Office, and even Web-centric versions of Microsoft Office applications, the browser is truly the new business platform.