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Business users meet gatecrashers at UK iPhone launch

Some of the early adopters at the launch planned to use Apple's device for business, despite security warnings. But some were just unwelcome guests

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Topic: Networking
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1 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

Friday evening saw Apple's eagerly anticipated mobile handset, the iPhone, go on sale for the first time in the UK.

At 6.02 pm — a nod to the operator O2 which has a "multi-year" exclusivity deal with Apple to support the iPhone in the UK — the doors of the Apple flagship store on Regent Street were opened to the earliest of London's early adopters.

ZDNet.co.uk was there to speak to those in the queue who were considering using the iPhone as a work phone, although the thought had apparently not occurred to most who were lining up for Apple's handset, dubbed by some as the "Jesus Phone".

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2 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

Although it wasn't easy to find anyone in the queue who intended to use the iPhone for business, there were some. Web designer Miles Tinsley, a self-employed and established Mac fan, seemed keen to make use of the device's Safari browser for work.

"I'll be chucking out my Nokia," he told ZDNet.co.uk. Tinsley, who was switching operator from Vodafone to O2 to use the iPhone, said he intended to use Apple's web-based MacMail system, as well as the iCal calendar application. "A lot of my work is with web pages anyway," he said. "I'll use the iPhone when I haven't got my laptop."

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3 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

The story was different for many of those who worked for larger corporations. One example was Richard Innes, who works in finance in the City.

Currently a BlackBerry user, Innes said he doubted he would be allowed to use his iPhone in a business setting. "It's a big corporate network," he said. "If I was in the media, I could easily use the iPhone, but I don't think I could use it in a corporate environment."

O2 has warned that many procurement departments may not allow employees to transfer their work numbers to an iPhone because it is only available on a consumer tariff. The security implications of the device's use in a corporate setting have also not yet been established.

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4 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

Ben Sellers, another website developer, said the iPhone's online applications were useful for business. "Every product we use is web-based, like collaboration tools and email," he told ZDNet.co.uk.

Although the software development kit (SDK) for the iPhone is yet to be released — severely limiting the number of available third-party applications — several software companies have declared their products to be iPhone-compatible because they are web-based.

The only aspect of the iPhone that did not impress Sellers is its lack of 3G functionality. The device only works on O2's slower Edge network, which will only cover 30 percent of the country by the end of this year. When outside Edge coverage, the device will fall back to the even slower GPRS network.

"That's the only backwards step here," said Sellers, who currently uses Windows Mobile but is looking forward to the iPhone's bigger screen and better browser.

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5 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

Michael Wong works in recruitment and claimed that his employer would have to let him use his iPhone at work because "they don't have a choice".

"I'm hoping for push email functionality — I'm just waiting for the SDK. The iPhone needs to be integrated with corporate email," Wong added. Like most in the queue, he was also looking forward to using the iPhone's high-quality Safari browser.

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6 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

One familiar face in the iPhone queue was that of Ed Parsons, Google's geospatial technologist. "The guys in Mountain View have been using them for a while," he told ZDNet.co.uk.

Parsons claimed the device had all the functionality he needed, noting that Google had "developed a lot of the apps". After the launch, however, he complained on his blog (via a Wi-Fi connection) that O2's Edge network was not yet extensive enough for his liking.

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7 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

Not everyone was welcome at the iPhone launch. Not only did the crew for the venerable broadcast news service ITN get thrown out — apparently for asking those in the queue whether they intended to unlock their devices from O2's network — but these girls were also sent packing by the heavy security presence.

Representatives of an iPhone unlocking service, they managed to hand out leaflets to most of the queue before security told them to "get off their turf", one of them told ZDNet.co.uk.

Those who do choose to unlock their iPhone are taking a big risk, as Apple is protecting its exclusivity deals with operators by rolling out new functionality in a regular stream of firmware upgrades, each of which nullifies the "jailbreak" hacks that have previously been made available.

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