With the release of Apple’s iPhone SDK fast approaching, speculation abounds surrounding Apple's plans for a business-friendly iPhone play. Will the consumer-focused company introduce enterprise-class connectivity and security options for the iPhone? Will the SDK enable third parties to bridge the consumer/business divide?
[ Find out how the iPhone 2.0 software changes what businesses can do to make the iPhone fit right in. ]
Until March 6, when the SDK is officially released, the fog of rumor will only get thicker. In the meantime, one thing is clear: iPhone popularity has executives, salespeople, even members of your IT staff hot to connect their iPhones to business resources. And AT&T’s Jan. 21 introduction of an iPhone-based data plan for businesses has them hungry for you to make good on their desires.
Whatever the impending iPhone SDK accomplishes out of the gate, the fact is that most IT organizations can bring the iPhone into their operations easily and with acceptable risk. Yes, instinct and analysts such as Forrester Research caution against such a move. After all, the iPhone is not designed for the enterprise and does have deficits IT should be concerned about. But a strict “no iPhone policy” is likely to drive users to perform more dangerous hacks, such as setting up Google and Yahoo accounts as way stations to connect to enterprise assets -- contacts and e-mail, in particular.
Instead, investigate what is possible before establishing your iPhone policy. And remember: Apple updated the iPhone software several times in its first six months, fixing some significant deficits that early reviews pointed out. No panacea, but such updates may mean the iPhone has fewer business-oriented caveats than you initially thought.
But where to begin gearing up the iPhone for business? How can you satisfy executive demands to make the iPhone fit for corporate essentials? For those looking to get a jump on business-enabling the iPhone, here’s a handy guide on what’s currently possible, and how to get it done. (Note that everything here applies to the iPhone’s voiceless cousin, the iPod Touch with the January 2008 software update.)
Accessing corporate e-mail
IBM’s promise of a Lotus Notes client for the iPhone remains unfulfilled. And an Exchange client from Microsoft has yet to rear its head. But, if your business uses either system, you can provide e-mail access via POP3 or IMAP, popular protocols that many businesses already support. In either case, the iPhone’s Mail setup is where to begin configuring host addresses, user names, passwords, and SSL authentication.
A tip for Exchange: Even though the Mail setup includes an Exchange pane, don’t use it. Use IMAP instead; the Exchange pane doesn’t work. (Even Apple’s support pages say to use the IMAP pane.)