Let's go to work, says Gartner...
The iPhone has taken another step towards the arms of the enterprise after analyst house Gartner announced it will now be recommending the Apple hardware for business use.
Security concerns had previously prevented the analyst from giving businesses the green light to usher iPhones into the boardroom but Gartner thinks Apple's upcoming iPhone 2.0 software update has now brought the device into the business fold.
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The iPhone software update, due in June, licenses the Microsoft ActiveSync protocol - enabling iPhones to get push email via Microsoft Exchange Servers, along with calendars and contacts. But ActiveSync support also means iPhones gain security features such as remote wipe and password policies - which Gartner considers essential for business devices. iPhone 2.0 will also support Cisco IPsec VPN for secure transmission of data, and WPA2 Enterprise with 802.1x authentication for wi-fi network protection.
All this is enough to lift it up a notch on Gartner's three-tier rating system for mobiles and PDAs to what the analyst calls 'application-level support'. This means it recommends the iPhone for use in the enterprise for personal information manager, email, telephony and web browsing applications.
Gartner said the rating also permits iPhones to be used for other dedicated functions where the software is supplied by a third party.
Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing at Gartner, told silicon.com: "The iPhone initially was in the [lowest support rating] level because it didn't have the core elements that were needed to use it beyond a custom supported device. But now with the announcement by Apple that they would support Exchange ActiveSync that permits it to be used because it has basic security."
The shiny touchscreen device still has a way to go to get top notch 'enterprise class' kudos from Gartner - not least because it is necessarily an immature, unproven tech in the enterprise, said Dulaney - but Apple's iPhone 2.0 plans will at least remove basic barriers to business use of it. "It's really transitioning out of its consumer period to at least accommodate the enterprise," he added.
There is also the issue of 3G - which the iPhone currently lacks. And users still can't buy the device on a business tariff.
O2 UK, which sells the iPhone, said in a statement: "Business customers can still buy an iPhone but they will need to take out a new 18-month consumer contract on an iPhone tariff. It is our intention to create business tariffs for the iPhone and we will provide more details in due course."
Discussing Apple's mobile strategy, Dulaney said: "I believe they [Apple] still are focused on consumers. I believe that Apple believes that supporting the enterprise is difficult and they're not sure they want to get into it. I think what they want to do is appeal to the individual and make sure that companies don't block them.
"Whereas you might find that Microsoft and RIM might appeal directly to the IT organisation I don't think that's Apple's interest. I think Apple will continue to flaunt its consumer technology sufficiently to entice the end user to want to use it in business. They are simply looking to remove substantial roadblocks to the use of that device in business. I don't think they are interested in going down into the infinite detail in terms of supporting this."
Dan Bieler, director consulting of European telecommunications and networking at analyst IDC, added: "It's obviously good news that the iPhone officially is taking on the enterprise segment - i.e. the C-level executives - because they already were forcing IT departments to connect their iPhone to the enterprise communication systems. This will become now safer and more straightforward.
"Given the multimedia nature of the iPhone there's also a challenge in the sense that the more people who use the iPhone on an enterprise network the harder it might become for the IT department and in particular the security staff to control issues such as downloads, access to the network from outside… The iPhone, as we all know, the multimedia usage of the iPhone is much much higher than for your average smart phone."