Home & Office

iPhone's open-heart surgery on the enterprise

Apple's iPhone 3G is full of updates. The biggest is that Apple now has an enterprise strategy
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

So, you have your iPhone 3G. It's much faster, a little bit sleeker and they've even fixed that headphone socket. It has a promised better battery life, and GPS (although no mention of battery life with GPS). Malta's getting it, alongside 69 other countries.  It starts at $199, worldwide. It's coming in a month. It is what you hoped for.

These things are good. But another thing might be better — Apple's first determined attack on that great Microsoft redoubt, the organisation.

After a good decade of ignoring the enterprise, and a year of seeing iPhone sales not making the grade, Apple has finally decided to give the corporate crowd what they want. It's not just a matter of bolting on proper Exchange integration, but of concentrating on building applications cheaply, quickly and effectively. Jobs didn't quite march up and down the stage yelling "Developers! In suits! Developers! In suits!" — he might as well.

"We've had a beta going. Thirty-five percent of the Fortune 500 has participated in that beta program. The top five banks, top five securities firms, six or seven top airlines, eight out of the top pharmaceuticals, and eight of the 10 top entertainment companies." And what did they want, Steve? "Exchange, push email, calendars, contacts, auto-discovery, global address lookup, remote wipe, all this stuff built in. In addition we've worked with Cisco to build in their VPN services, all sorts of security demanded by the enterprise. Everything they told us they wanted, we built in."

So far, so good. But then partner after partner marched across the stage — eBay, Associated Press, games developers, blog companies, doctors, even solo developers — showing off applications that looked perfectly swish enough for the iPhone. And partner after partner talked about how easy and quick it had been to build those applications. 

To add even more power to the message, Apple is building in ways for enterprises to distribute applications internally and securely to their own iPhones, at will and without interference from outside.

I don't offhand remember when Steve Ballmer last said that everything his customers wanted, he'd built in. Nor when someone last held up a Windows Mobile application and said it had been one of the most satisfying development experiences they'd had. For all these years, Windows Mobile has been a second-class citizen in the Microsoft city.  After all, they're only smartphones, right?

The iPhone is a smartphone alright, but it's more than that. It's a wrapper around the OS X API, a solid dose of the Apple development environment — now enterprise strength! — coated in extremely consumer-friendly sugar. In what could be the strongest case yet of the halo effect, it's amplifying the perception that Apple is easier and more satisfying to use than the competition, and pushing it straight at the heart of corporate IT.

And that heart is open. After 20 years of taking what it's been given, it's open to the idea that there's an alternative that's better tuned to the way people want to work — and can produce enterprise applications that have the revolutionary attributes of not looking and working like a hungover bureaucrat on a Monday morning two months away from retirement. 

If you want that on your work mobile phone, you'll want it on your desktop and your laptop. When that beach-head is established, who'll bet against the next wave of the invasion — down and into the server centre? Enterprise IT is all about credibility: today's message from Apple is very credible indeed.

Editorial standards