For those who think the Apple iPhone will not be a corporate mobile client any time soon, think again.
Sybase demonstrated today a straightforward way to use an Apple iPhone to access such enterprise email stalwarts as Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino servers. Not only was the email and associated attachments available via the iPhone's native client email software, but real-time access to the business user's corporate calendar and address book were there too.
Today's demonstration, before a group of industry and financial analysts at an annual Sybase user conference in Las Vegas, also showed unified communications functions, including click-to-call on the iPhone from the online corporate directory. Sybase says its capability to provide such integration is unique among mobile infrastructure vendors.
For the demo, Sybase used its Information Anywhere Suite infrastructure from its iAnywhere product line to deliver the corporate messaging goods to the iPhone client. The messaging integration via Information Anywhere is secure by using SSL, does not require IMAP, and connects through existing ports.
That means that corporate IT personnel can accommodate business users who want to use iPhones to access their core corporate communications without a lot of IT overhead. It takes five minutes to set up a user, following the same basic steps as setting up a Windows Mobile connection, said Sybase.
The iPhone demo came on the same day that Apple unveiled new iMacs and software.
The iAnywhere-powered enterprise email-to-iPhone support service is not yet publicly available, but it soon could be. Already many enterprises in the U.S. are asking Sybase and its partners for ways to use the iPhone for corporate messaging. Such inquiries are also coming from Europe, where the iPhone is not even yet available.
No details were forthcoming on availability of the iPhone connectivity services, though Sybase certainly seems to like the idea of working closely with Apple to make the capability a commercial reality.
"We will do some work with Apple to make this a very powerful experience," said Terry Stepien, president of Sybase's iAnywhere division.
While many observers have pegged the iPhone as a consumer device, Sybase, in Dublin, CA, examined the iPhone and found that the existing Apple OS X-based APIs are strong enough for enterprise messaging use now. Recognizing that IT messaging administrators resist IMAP standards due to security concerns, Sybase made the iPhone a corporate client without using IMAP.
Quite a bit more could be done, however. Stepien said that the native calendar client on iPhone could be exploited if APIs for that were available. Web access could work in the meantime.
From where I sat watching the demo, an Apple-Sybase solution to satisfy those who want to add the iPhone to other sanctioned corporate mobile clients is a no-brainer. This is a development to keep an eye on, and may bring iPhone to an influential class of business user sooner than most thought possible.