Gartner issues caveats over enterprise iPhone use

Gartner issues caveats over enterprise iPhone use

Summary: The analyst house says Apple's latest iPhone is suitable for business use, but various 'inconveniences' must be taken into account


Apple's iPhone 3G smartphone is fit for business use, according to analyst house Gartner.

However, interested parties should approach adoption slowly, with Gartner warning that there are various "inconveniences" to consider, such as the iPhone's relatively poor battery performance, and the thorny issue of dealing with iTunes in the enterprise.

Earlier this year, the analyst said it would be giving businesses the green light to use the device in a limited capacity after Apple detailed enterprise-friendly changes that would arrive with iPhone 2.0, such as support for Microsoft Exchange push email.

The new firmware arrived with the iPhone 3G, which was launched to markets worldwide on 11 July and, after completing tests of the hardware, Gartner said the Mac maker has delivered on its enterprise promises. But organisations will need to develop strategies to support it.

In a report entitled iPhone 2.0 Is Ready for the Enterprise, but Caveats Apply, the analyst states: "The iPhone meets our minimum requirements and can be moved to the appliance-support level, which means support is limited to a narrow set of applications, such as voice, email, personal-information manager and browsing."

In order to pass Gartner's test, the iPhone needed to support "at least one popular enterprise email system" and, on the security side, remote wiping of lost or stolen devices, and a complex user password "consisting of a combination of alpha, numeric and special characters in a pattern that cannot be easily guessed".

The iPhone 2.0's ActiveSync support ticks the first box. Microsoft Exchange has some 70 percent of the enterprise email market, meaning "many end users can now use the iPhone".

Users of other email systems, such as Lotus Notes, "must employ previously released methods, such as IMAP [Internet Message Access Protocol], in the concierge support level or await third-party products that can tie into the security-policy features delivered with the firmware 2.0 upgrade".

Not all non-Exchange enterprise users will be happy with that situation however. Associated Newspapers chief information officer Ian Cohen recently said the lack of Lotus support is one of the main reasons his company won't consider adopting iPhones.

Another chief information officer, Matthew Sinclair, of credit insurance broking services company Marsh, said: "Organisationally, we're heading towards migration from Lotus Notes to Exchange, which will take some time. Once we've done that, we'll evaluate the use of iPhone versus BlackBerry."

The iPhone passed Gartner's security tests too. The report states: "The device can be wiped clean via the issuance of a standard instruction from Exchange, and can force the use of a complex password if the alphanumeric setting is checked on the Exchange 2003 SP2 or 2007 administrative console".

When it comes to remote wiping, Gartner said: "The iPhone reacts similarly to a Windows Mobile device, clearing contents when the security policy is violated." The iPhone also follows Windows Mobile devices when it comes to setting parameters for password-enforcement policy.

The report states: "Microsoft uses a confusing approach, assuming that the end device will decide on what type of password will be enforced when the policy is received by the device. There is no feedback to the console that the policy has been enforced. Windows Mobile interprets the alphanumeric parameter as an instruction to force the user to employ a complex password. The iPhone replicates this function in the same manner, despite Microsoft's awkward implementation."

However, Gartner's cautious thumbs-up comes with various caveats for businesses considering adopting iPhones.

For businesses that simply want to make use of the device in a consumer-style way — that is, primarily as a personal-assistant tool with little or no integration into business systems — the analyst said there is likely to be no more security impact than there is from an employee using a work mobile for personal use.

However, Gartner said organisations seeking to put the iPhone to work as mainly a business tool will have to recognise it could lower their overall security footprint — and, therefore, limiting browser access could be "one way to mitigate concerns".

Moreover, as it stands, the device "does not deliver sufficient security for custom applications". So businesses wanting to deploy custom apps can either…

Topics: Mobility, Smartphones

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