Forrester: iPhone not ready for enterprise use yet

Technology executives are asking Forrester Research for advice on whether to add iPhone support to their enterprise lineup. The answer: Not yet.

Technology executives are asking Forrester Research for advice on whether to add iPhone support to their enterprise lineup. The answer: Not yet. The iPhone just isn't an enterprise class device, says Forrester.

Forrester analysts Benjamin Gray and Robert Whiteley serve up 10 reasons why the iPhone isn't ready for the enterprise. That said, the analysts reckon that the iPhone will sneak into the enterprise because C-level executives are buying them and demanding support form IT.

Here's the conundrum from the Forrester report (Techmeme):

The iPhone is a great device, but the features that make it a consumer success don’t necessarily translate to the enterprise. Today, companies struggle to select one or two mobile platforms to standardize on for the immediate future. Why? Because the current enterprise model is broken. IT organizations have been stretched to support whatever platforms their employees have brought into the company. But with a diverse selection of mobile platforms — including BlackBerry, Linux, Palm OS, Symbian, Windows CE, Windows Mobile, and now Mac OS X — IT can’t be expected to support each and every operating system (OS).

Before things get out of control with the device creep, Forrester is telling IT departments to take a stand on the iPhone and say that the company won't support it. The argument against this generation of the iPhone is that there are costs involved.

Here's Forrester's top 10 and my take:

1. The iPhone doesn't natively support push business email or over the air calendar sync. Forrester says:

The iPhone can sync with Microsoft’s Exchange and IBM’s Lotus Notes over IMAP and SMTP ports, but your server and security admins have to configure their infrastructure to do so or purchase a mobile gateway from Synchronica or Azaleos. Even then, the iPhone can only check for new email every 15 minutes, compared with all other enterprise-class devices that have the capability to check every minute, or at preconfigured intervals.

My take: This email issue will be rectified relatively soon. AppleInsider points out that Apple has posted a position to make sure the iPhone works with Exchange and Outlook. Here's the listing.

2. The iPhone doesn't accommodate third-party applications. Forrester says:

This is a showstopper for companies with enterprise mobility initiatives that require line-of-business applications like mobile sales force automation or an industry-specific application like mobile claims.

My take: Apple will release a software development kit for the iPhone in February. This SDK may alleviate the issue, but Apple has a tough slog ahead.

3. The iPhone doesn't support securing data on the device through encryption. Forrester says:

There is no way for a company to natively secure the data on an iPhone with file or disk encryption, which is a critical consideration now that 73% of client security decision-makers are interested in disk or desktop encryption. This interest has extended to handheld devices, and it’s the most critical reason we recommend not supporting the iPhone.

My take: This is a very tricky problem. Other devices give the IT department password control. However, that control can't be user friendly.

4. The iPhone can’t be remotely locked or wiped in the event of a lost or stolen device. Forrester says:

The single most important feature of a mobile device management solution is the ability to remotely lock or wipe a lost or stolen device. The iPhone does not come with any management software.

My take: Regulations--Sarbanes-Oxley for instance--will put the kibosh on iPhone adoption in some companies.

5. The iPhone lacks a hard keypad that provides feedback, which isn’t ideal for rapid and accurate input. Forrester says:

In speaking with enterprise-class mobile device users on a daily basis, the vast majority have found that they need some form of tactile feedback from their QWERTY or numeric keyboards. Without it, people get hung up; convinced the device didn’t recognize the last input.

My take: This complaint is a red herring. I don't see it being an enterprise issue. Cubicle jockeys with a hard keypad still send mobile emails that don't make a lot of sense.

6. The iPhone is stuck with AT&T. Forrester says:

Large enterprises are rarely locked into a single carrier because their users are geographically distributed and coverage can’t be strong everywhere, making device availability a gating factor for the iPhone.

My take: AT&T is a huge issue on all fronts when it comes to the iPhone.

7. The iPhone is too pricey. Forrester says:

Sourcing analysts rely on corporatewide discounts when they place a bulk order with their carrier, but AT&T will not sell the iPhone to business accounts — only consumers.

My take: This problem will change--once Apple unveils a few more iPhone flavors.

8. The iPhone is only in the first generation. Forrester says:

Even Apple enthusiasts admit that there are some weaknesses they’d like to see fixed in future generations, like making it easier to activate the device, improving the battery life and sound quality, and, most importantly, allowing it to connect to higher-speed networks (3G).

My take: The 3G is an important issue for any multinational and it only makes sense to wait for the next generation.

9. The iPhone lacks a removable battery. Forrester says:

Apple does not sell replacement batteries for the iPhone. So when the battery dies, so does worker productivity.

My take: Another problem. What company is going to be trapped into a loop of buying iPhones repeatedly?

10. The iPhone lacks case studies of firms that have deployed it enterprisewide. Forrester says:

There is one known large enterprise that supports iPhones companywide, and it is Apple itself. Beyond that, we haven’t heard of many enterprises that have embraced the iPhone as a corporate device.

My take: Apple should publish its business case. Meanwhile it should find some companies that would make the move if Apple provided the devices for free. No company wants to be too cutting edge.

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