SMEs crazy in love with iPhone

'It's far more intuitive than Storm or Android'

'It's far more intuitive than Storm or Android'

The 3G iPhone has been selling more than expected to SMEs, according to O2 - but the operator admits it's proving harder to win around the corporate world.

Ben Dowd, head of business sales at O2, told silicon.com: "We have seen tremendous success across our channels in terms of the iPhone 3G model. Very, very strong in SME and also creating a lot of interest in corporate - although with corporate it always takes longer for it to translate into bigger deals purely because of the sales cycle."

He claimed SME sales cycles are typically three to four weeks, compared to six months for corporate businesses, adding: "Within SMEs in particular [the 3G iPhone has] exceeded my expectations in terms of the numbers that are getting delivered."

Dowd, who refused to give figures for business iPhone sales, admitted corporate CIOs who are interested in deploying the iPhone have to have "a discussion" and "engage with the IT infrastructure" if they want to walk Apple's way.

"It's an easier decision to make for small businesses - [they] will invariably require less IT infrastructure, less of an IT discussion. It's an easier decision to make," he said.

Despite this Dowd said he remains confident the iPhone can do well in the corporate sphere, given enough time - adding "a number of corporate customers" are trialling it, though he refused to identify the companies involved.

Interest in the iPhone has come from corporate customers across all sectors, he claimed, with the emphasis being on trialling it to "see how it compares against the BlackBerry or how it compares against Microsoft".

"In terms of all of the challenges or potential challenges [for corporate customers] that could be raised with the iPhone I think they can all be addressed - from security to price to functionality to application to mobility," he added.

Dowd also played down potential iPhone competitors such as the BlackBerry Storm touchscreen device - exclusive to Vodafone - and the HTC G1 with Google Android - on T-Mobile only.

"[The iPhone is] far more intuitive than say the Storm or the Android," he claimed.

"I think the [Storm's] software's a bit clunky. I think the internet browsing experience is nothing compared to the iPhone. I don't think it's as intuitive as the iPhone. And I think design, build and quality is nothing compared to the iPhone."

According to Dowd, the G1 is still below the radar for businesses.

"I don't think [businesses are] even talking about it. I think a lot of businesses are not even aware it exists… I guess it's about the credibility as well - if T-Mobile are going to sell it into their B2B base... they are clearly fourth player in that space so potentially it becomes harder," he said.

Discussing O2's strategy for 2009, Dowd said the operator is eyeing up the unified comms space.

He told silicon.com: "Our insight has indicated to us that three years from now there will be four or five players in the marketplace that will have the capability of delivering unified comms and we absolutely want to make sure that we are one of them."

O2 believes offerings such as professional managed services will see something of an uptick during the economic downturn, Dowd added.