'Big' 5 iPhone business apps

Amongst the throngs of iPhone tools available, five major enterprise vendors have emerged with mobile versions of their existing software products.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

Since the launch of Apple's App Store, a steady stream of business-oriented applications has flooded in for iPhone users. Most of the developers are independent third-party startups, but big-name software vendors are now clamoring for a piece of the pie.

Names such as Oracle, SAP and Sybase, to name a few, have released iPhone versions of applications that allow users to tap some of the functionality afforded with the traditional desktop versions.

Most of the applications can be found on the App Store, Apple's online market--launched in June--where iPhone users can browse and download applications built for their devices.

Fresh off a second wave of global launches, the iPhone 3G has been deemed ready for enterprise workers by Gartner analysts--albeit with some caveats.

According to the research firm, the iPhone 3G "does not deliver sufficient security for custom applications", so businesses wanting to deploy such applications will likely have to bear with a lower level of security.

Nonetheless, the overall iPhone software market has been coined a success by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who said the online collection drummed up some US$30 million in sales, a month after it launched. It could prove to be lucrative market, too, with iPhone sales expected to hit 25 million in 2009 as Apple said it will ramp production up to 40 million units a year.

ZDNet Asia looks at five enterprise apps that the big software houses are hoping will catch the attention of the growing iPhone user base, though none has yet to make it to the top downloads list on App Store.

1. Oracle Business Indicators
Oracle released its native iPhone application in July this year, becoming one of the first to release an enterprise application when the App Store opened its doors.

The business intelligence (BI) tool is available as a free download, but customers must have licensed copies of Oracle's BI software running on their company's servers because the mobile app draws reports and analytics from the on-premise software.

According to reports, Oracle last month said the software clocked 23,055 downloads since it became available.

2. Sybase iAnywhere Mobile Office
The database giant's iAnywhere software connects users to company e-mail server, based on Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange platforms.

According to Sybase's Web site, the software is touted to help secure a company's messaging platform by providing access to e-mail and contacts "without requiring changes to an enterprise's [main] messaging infrastructure".

Offline e-mail access is also supported. The company also said it plans to upgrade the app based on version 2 of the iPhone SDK (software development kit).

3. SAP
The business management software maker released its iPhone version of a sales force automation suite, ahead of other platforms such as the BlackBerry.

SAP said in a statement that the software will load business contacts, information on sales prospects and account data onto the device.

4. Salesforce.com Mobile
One of the earlier vendors to release an iPhone app, Salesforce.com in March showed off a preliminary version of its CRM product based on the beta version of the iPhone SDK.

The software connects users to their CRM records. The free version allows users to search and view contacts and accounts, but users need to sign up for the paid version in order to edit their data, according to Salesforce.com's Web site.

5. Web-based apps: Netsuite, SugarCRM, Zoho
These apps are not native iPhone apps but meant to be launched via the phone's Web browser. Some of the big names offering non-native apps include CRM vendors NetSuite and SugarCRM, which have released Web-based ERP (enterprise resource planning) versions of their product offerings.

The apps are available in both hosted and on-premise versions.

Online office suite Zoho, has also launched a mobile version of its productivity suite for the iPhone. This includes word editor, spreadsheet and e-mail programs. Users can view existing documents but not edit them or create new ones.

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