Analyst firm Gartner has decided that the iPhone will soon be "ready for business", nine months after warning enterprises to stay away from Apple's popular handset.
In June last year, Gartner issued a research note warning that a lack of device-management support and proven security, together with Apple's stated consumer focus for the device, made the iPhone unsuitable for business use. On Wednesday the firm changed its tune, claiming that the iPhone should soon be permissible at the "appliance-level" support grade once certain new features are rolled out in June.
Appliance-level status, according to Gartner's statement, "permits the iPhone to be used for personal information management [PIM], email, telephony and browsing applications. It also permits the device to be used for other dedicated functions where the software is supplied by a third party, functionality is kept to a restricted set, the software supplier offers support for a backup platform and IT development resources are not needed to program custom code locally residing on the device".
In June, Apple is expected to roll out new, more enterprise-friendly features for the iPhone in a bid to pitch the device against the BlackBerry and other business-oriented handsets. The company has licensed Microsoft ActiveSync, which should make Outlook synchronisation easier, and has added support for Cisco IPSec and WPA2 Wi-Fi security. The partial opening up of the iPhone software development kit (SDK) could also spur on business-related application development for the iPhone.
"In its initial release, the iPhone was, with few exceptions, an internet tablet with browser-based applications as its main offering, but the release of firmware 2.0 changes that, enabling organisations to develop local code and create applications that do not depend on network capabilities," said Ken Dulaney, a Gartner vice president, on Wednesday. "The iPhone will thus match up initially in several segments against its main smartphone competitors — BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian Series 60."
Dulaney added that administrators would need to familiarise themselves with Apple's iPhone configuration utility if they wanted to manage the device outside of the Exchange email/PIM application. "Organisations should thoroughly review the platform's management and security options to understand how they can control any consumer elements of the platform that may pose a risk," he said.
Almost as soon as the handset was launched halfway through last year, software companies started announcing iPhone compatibility for some of their products, mostly for browser-based applications. In December, Avaya also announced that its one-X Mobile client software would make it possible to fold the iPhone into most corporate telephony networks.