Businesses see barriers to iPhone adoption

Cost and the network-operator restriction are preventing chief information officers from selecting the iPhone as a corporate device

Bosses are not planning to make the iPhone available to employees as a corporate mobile option because of the high price tag and network-operator restriction.

Apple has just revealed details of the UK version of the iPhone, which will be available from 9 November.

At an event in London, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs named O2 as the exclusive mobile operator for the iPhone, which will cost £269 in addition to a monthly contract ranging from £35 to £55.

Despite the cost, a poll of more than 700 readers by ZDNet.co.uk's sister site silicon.com found a third would switch mobile operator just to get their hands on an iPhone. The US version has already sold more than one million handsets in the first 74 days since it launched.

However, when silicon.com asked a 12-strong CIO Jury IT director panel whether they have plans to make the iPhone available to staff in the range of corporate phones they offer, only one said that they would.

Ian Campbell, British Energy chief information officer, said his organisation is planning to make the iPhone available to some staff. "It's likely to be at the executive end rather than general purpose. A 'killer application' or use would drive up demand," he said.

Tying the iPhone exclusively to O2 is one of the biggest barriers to corporate adoption. Peter Birley, IT director at Midlands law firm Browne Jacobson, said: "Regardless of any functional benefit there may be, the restriction of one network provider would exclude it for us."

David Supple, director of IT and creative services at Ecotec, raised additional concerns. He said: "Aside from the phone being limited to only one network, I can't see how this is a serious business tool, and I would have some concerns over staff being targeted for theft of what is a very desirable object."

Michael Elliot, IT director at toy maker Hasbro UK, said the iPhone will be on a "watching brief" only for now. "We have an existing bulk contract currently with Vodafone and no plans to allow folks to stray from it in the near term. I expect to get pressure but early adopter experience may not be all positive," he said.

The iPhone's price tag and lack of integration with Microsoft Exchange are the other issues for corporate IT departments.

Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director at publisher Hachette Filipacchi UK, said: "No, it's far too pricey. In a few months time it may be a useable tool but we'll have to see whether Microsoft Exchange integration is at all possible."

If the response of the chief information officers is anything to go by, RIM's BlackBerry shouldn't be under threat as a business communication tool.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, chief information officer at Sodexho UK, said: "We use BlackBerrys and then lightweight laptops with 3G cards and VPN software for general connectivity. Particular applications also have specific handheld devices. The iPhone would be seen as expensive and trendy rather than a corporate tool in our industry."

Asked whether he planned to allow the iPhone as a corporate phone, Andy Pepper, director of business IS at Tetley, simply said: "Not at that price."

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