Apple goes after business; watch out Palm, RIM, Microsoft

There was a lot of ground to cover in the keynote presentation at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference this morning - and I'll be chiming in on more from the event later. But here's a quick observation about the potential rise of Macs and iPhones as business devices.

There was a lot of ground to cover in the keynote presentation at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference this morning - and I'll be chiming in on more from the event later. But here's a quick observation about the potential rise of Macs and iPhones as business devices.

Over the weekend, fellow ZDNet blogger Zack Whittaker chimed in with a post titled: Why enterprise networks run Windows, not the Mac. Then, this morning, fellow blogger Andrew Nusca offered his take on how Palm, as a business device, is going after the Blackberry, not the iPhone. Sorry, guys, it looks like Apple is trying to deflate your arguments.

From where I sit, there were two words that came out of today's announcements - Exchange and encryption - that will impact the way businesses think about Apple. Support for Exchange in Apple's native mail, calendar and address book programs on a Mac - the same ones that sync with the communications apps on the iPhone - is a big deal. I've not been a fan of Microsoft Entourage - which is the Mac version of Outlook. But I've also not really been able to use Apple Mail and the other apps because I still need Entourage to get those business messages. The new features built into the Exchange support, including the ability to preview a file such as a Powerpoint as a mail attachments - even if you don't have Microsoft's Powerpoint installed on your machine.

At the tail end of the keynote, Marketing VP Phil Schiller noted that the new iPhone OS will include hardware encryption - a data-protection feature that businesses have asked for - and that the encryption will extend to the Mac or PC when the data is backed up. Apple also announced a feature that allows users to remotely wipe clean their iPhones if it gets lost so that sensitive corporate data doesn't fall into the wrong hands - and can still be recovered by syncing with the computer when the phone is either recovered or replaced. (see video below)

It's tough to say if business customers will flock to an Apple solution - after all, the computers are still significantly more expensive than a Windows machine and there are some native apps that just won't run on a Mac. But, as businesses learn more about the cost savings that come with cloud computing and mobile apps for business transactions, the necessity for an all-Windows solution becomes less critical.

The Palm Pre - which launched over the weekend - is being billed not so much as an iPhone killer but instead as a device that's going after Blackberry business users. The Apple news - and new hardware pricing - puts a wrinkle in that argument. For $199, a company can get a 16 GB next-gen iPhone that has access to thousands of apps. The Pre is $299.

For those who dismissed the iPhone as a fun gadget that's wasn't ready for business use, it may be time to change your tune.

WWDC 2009: New app helps users find lost iPhone At Apple's WWDC in San Francisco, the company's SVP of iPhone software, Scott Forstall, demos a new app, "Find My iPhone," that helps people find their phone if it gets lost--the software pinpoints on a map where the device is located. Users can also send an alert to the phone announcing it is lost.