Yes, companies like Good Technology are beginning to offer iPhone management capabilities, but their products are still in early stages and not as complete as what's available for the BlackBerry or Windows Mobile devices. Perhaps in a year or three, these third parties will have brought the iPhone close to par with these two enterprise-class mobile platforms. But they alone can't do it: Apple needs to deepen the native security and management capabilities of the iPhone, and IBM and Novell have to get serious native clients into the Apple App Store.
Apple's not acting on enterprise needs
Mac OS X Snow Leopard tantalized us with its Exchange-capable Mail, iCal, and Address Book apps, as well as its support for Cisco VPNs without needing a Cisco client. But Apple's implementation stopped at the midsize company ceiling. So, while it's great to access Exchange email via Mail in seconds rather than in Entourage's minutes, it's frustrating that it doesn't support away notices, visibility into group addresses' members, or delegated email accounts -- the kind of features that help companies avoid using local IT people to do simple tasks.
Likewise, the support for Cisco VPN clients in the Mac OS X's Network system preference means you can avoid worrying about having a compatible Cisco VPN client available, yet it's a nonstarter for large businesses that an IT person has to manually enter the shared security key on each Mac -- Apple didn't bother letting the Network system preference import a secured configuration file as Cisco's own client app does.
To help satisfy enterprises' needs to minimize the "touch" time on handling a broken computer, Apple could have set up a premium support offering in which IT could overnight damaged Macs to a repair depot, as all the major PC makers offer. But it has not -- and neither has it helped a third party take on that role in its stead.
And to address the reality of remote management and the need for auditable installation logs, Apple could have created the mechanism for the iPhone to be updated over the air and to report its current status. That would let third parties like Good and Sybase integrate the iPhone fully into their management software, even if Apple decided not to create a server version of its iPhone Configuration Utility (the most straightforward option for customers, as RIM found when it created BES).
These are just a few examples of what Apple has not done, despite years of requests from its customers. As I noted earlier, Apple officials say privately that they're not interested in investing in the enterprise market, likely because such a move would greatly increase the complexity Apple would have to deal with. Plus, Apple crashed and burned in the 1990s when it last tried to enter the enterprise market, and since Steve Jobs returned in 1997 to help Apple, he has firmly steered Apple to the high-end consumer and individual professional markets. And has kept it there.
Apple is nothing if not determined and intentional. Not investing in the enterprise capabilities in the Mac and iPhone, nor investing in the ecosystem to support them, has to be intentional. Apple is clearly engaging small businesses with Snow Leopard and iPhone. Any large company is welcome to adopt Apple's technology, but that's just an extra cherry on top for Apple -- not its goal.
You can use Macs in the enterprise -- but it's up to you to make it work.
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