Gartner: Businesses should ban the iPhone

Analyst claims companies should refuse to support Apple's iPhone for the time being because it could breach corporate security defences

Analyst Gartner claims the iPhone could "punch a hole" through corporate security systems if staff are allowed to use the phone for work purposes.

IT departments should be extremely wary of allowing staff to use Apple's mobile handset as it does not contain the necessary functionality to comply with basic corporate security, analysts warned in a research note released on Thursday. The iPhone will be launched in the US on Friday.

Gartner lists the following reasons to steer clear of the iPhone for now:

  • Lack of support from major mobile device management suites and mobile-security suites
  • Lack of support from major business mobile email solution providers
  • An operating system platform thatis not licensed to alternative hardware suppliers, meaning there are limited backup options
  • Feature deficiencies that would increase support costs (for example, no removable battery)
  • Currently available from only one operator in the US
  • An unproven device from a vendor that has never built an enterprise-class mobile device
  • The high price of the device, estimated at $500 (£250)
  • A clear statement by Apple that it is focused on consumer rather than enterprise

Integrating mobile devices and other tech into corporate IT networks, while maintaining security policies, has become an increasing problem for businesses. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that manufacturers provide tools that allow staff to integrate their device into the corporate network, the analyst group claims.

"Most handheld devices come with easy-to-use tools that enable rapid interfaces to business systems," the report stated. "When end users install such tools, they effectively 'punch a hole' through the enterprise security perimeter — data can be moved across applications to personally owned devices, without the IT organisation's knowledge or control."

Gartner argues that companies should develop a "managed diversity" approach to supporting mobile devices. This approach effectively allows a wide variety of devices to be supported but with trade-offs, such as limited access to some systems, to maintain security levels.

But because the iPhone is a new device, and Apple doesn't have a history of building secure mobile devices for businesses, the analyst recommends that companies leave the device alone for now.

However, although Apple is not positioning the iPhone as a business device, the decision to use the Ajax development technique in the handset could make it a useful platform for enterprise mobility. Business and service providers can effectively create web applications in Ajax and port them onto any device — including the iPhone — with minimal fuss, Apple claimed at its developer conference WWDC earlier this month.

"Developers and users alike are going to be very surprised and pleased at how great these applications look and work on [the] iPhone," said Apple chief executive Steve Jobs. "Our innovative approach, using Web 2.0-based standards, lets developers create amazing new applications while keeping the iPhone secure and reliable."

Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt, who sits on the board of Apple, has also claimed that the iPhone is uniquely positioned to become a mobile platform for the search specialist's hosted applications. "iPhone is a powerful new device and is going to be particularly good for the apps that Google is building. You should expect other announcements from the two companies over time," he said.

Apple could offer no comment on Gartner's report at the time of writing.