After months of speculation, Apple this week unveiled its next-generation smartphone, the iPhone 3G and solidified its push into the enterprise mobile space with a spattering of business-specific announcements. But how well did these enhancements to the uber-popular device and its software measure up to enterprise users' expectations?
Last week, in anticipation of the iPhone 3G's arrival in stores -which, by the way, won't be for another month-I asked a group of CIOs about the features they most wanted to see in the next-generation iPhone, as well as what functionality they require for large-scale deployments.
Here's the rundown of those features that IT executives most wanted, and my opinions on whether or not Apple delivered.
Tighter Security, Remote Management
Back in March, Apple announced that it would license Microsoft's ActiveSync technology to enable Exchange e-mail, contacts and calendars to be wirelessly pushed to iPhone users' devices. That was a big step in the enterprise direction: but because the functionality was set to be a part of the iPhone 2.0, which will become available for the first time when the iPhone 3G hits the market on July 11, much of initial excitement had died down since. Apple also spilled very few details on the associated security safeguards that would come along with the Exchange support
Frankly, not much has changed on the security front. Okay, so Apple said the iPhone 3G software will support Cisco IPsec VPN (virtual private network) for encrypted access to corporate networks. But that's really all the detail we got. And Apple offered even less detail on what, if any, remote management capabilities will be available-though there were some rumbles about remote device wipe and password enforcement.
The company really didn't mention anything about how administrators will remotely troubleshoot and resolve individual iPhone users' hardware or software issues. And who will iPhone administrators call for support when they encounter an Exchange issue they can't solve on their own? If new calendar entries aren't making it to iPhone calendars, or mail deleted on desktop computers remains on handhelds? Apple? AT&T?? Microsoft?!? So far those questions are largely unanswered...
Bottom Line: Apple made some progress on the iPhone security/management front, but it has a looooooong way to go before truly satisfying enterprise concerns-or becoming a suitable alternative to BlackBerry or Windows Mobile, for that matter.
More Flexible Mail Client
iPhone 3G will support Outlook mail, contacts and calendar sync via Active Sync, as mentioned above, so the e-mail and messaging functionality of the new iPhone will be a vast improvement over the first-generation device.
And the iPhone 3G mail client will also satisfy some of the other hopes the CIOs had, according to Apple, including the fact that e-mail will be readable in HTML format-"Its rich HTML format means email looks and acts like email on your computer," states Apple's iPhone page. Calendars will appear much the same on an iPhone as they do via desktop computer-"Color coding makes calendar entries easy to organize and view at a glance." And users will have access to many of their calendars' desktop actions-"Tap to accept or decline a meeting invitation. Tap again to see who's attending, check scheduling conflicts, review the agenda."
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