Get ready for the iPhone Enterprise IT Challenge

When Apple invented the PC, the corporate computer industry barely noticed. With the iPhone, you can't say you weren't warned
Written by Leader , Contributor

It is fitting that the iPhone was unveiled during the Month of Apple Bugs. Although Apple Inc has yet to say exactly what it means by iPhone running on OS X, the product is a valuable reminder that, at some point, many of our safely dumb devices will become smart enough to cause security headaches.

It's going to be particularly interesting when iPhone-class devices become the standard way to access corporate networks from outside. And sooner or later, they will: by combining screens and interfaces that are capable of supporting most business applications with fast and ubiquitous wireless broadband, they can work with in-office hardware to provide all the advantages of laptops with none of the bulk, fragility and general inconvenience. Apple's loss of the Computer from its name presages more than a new focus on consumer toys: whether it's because of thin clients, web services or some exotic mixture of these, the personal computer is yesterday's news. At last.

The implications for enterprise IT are immediate. Employee pressure to use iPhone-class devices for work will be irresistible — and rightly so. With the most desirable and most usable inventions generally not being in thrall to the default corporate position of "Microsoft or nothing", the requirement to build around open protocols will also be non-negotiable.

This is not a counsel of panic. IT departments can and must keep managing access and internal security — it's just that, whether they fancy it or not, the new wave of portable internet-centric devices will be part of the equation. Suppliers must fall into line or get out of the way: "It can't be done" or "It shouldn't be done that way" are merely translations of "We don't want your business". Conversely, those who have good answers and show strong awareness of the new realities deserve to be heard.

Ask the hard questions. Do the spadework — and if that means having to buy in and explore the most fabulous gadgets ahead of the curve, then make that noble sacrifice. The last thing anyone needs is a hurried, piecemeal and unplanned access policy introduced in 1Q08 because of the Finance Director's gift from Santa '07. When it comes to the future, Steve Jobs knows the way to play it: hand it to them before they hand it to you.

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