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Apple's iPhone A Tight Fit For The Enterprise

Our expert John C. Welch decides iPhone can be a good citizen on any network, but if you want a smartphone designed and purposed for the enterprise, this isn't it.

Now that the iPhone 2.0 software has had some time to settle down, get a couple updates, and let the enterprise software vendors get some product out, I thought it was time to look at the iPhone in the enterprise from the IT point of view, as both an administrator and as a sysadmin using it to get his job done.

iPhones For Admins

There has been press, press, and more press about the iPhone in the enterprise from the IT point of view, and honestly, much of it has been rather hysterical... both in tone and in honesty. The iPhone is neither a magical device that will bring perfection to your world, nor is it a blight on your network and users. It's a smartphone. It can be a good citizen on any network, but if you want a device designed and purposed for the enterprise, this isn't it.

Where does it fit in well? If you're an Exchange/Exchange Active Sync shop, then it fits in well. I separate those two, because there are a number of non-Exchange servers out there that support EAS, including Communigate Pro and Kerio Mail Server. Ironically, Apple's Mac OS X Server doesn't yet support push on the iPhone, but with any luck, that will be rectified in Mac OS X 10.6 Server, due out sometime in 2009.

If you have a lot of mobile users that need a better browser, then the iPhone's not a bad choice. (No, I don't count Flash as a browser requirement. Flash is terribly overused, and anyone creating an all-Flash site should have to use it with a screen reader.) If you don't want to have to deal with Handango, et al., to get applications onto your users' phones, then the iPhone is not bad at all. (Does anyone other than Handango actually like using that service?) If you have a significant number of Mac users, the iPhone is a no-brainer.

On the other hand, if you want 100% over-the-air config and absolute control over the phone, then no, the iPhone won't make you happy. If you don't use EAS, then the iPhone is limited to POP/IMAP/SMTP. If all your in-house device applications have to be Java, the iPhone won't fit in at all. Basically, if your enterprise can live with the limitations of the iPhone, then you'll be fine with it. Which pretty much describes your relationship with every smartphone on the planet.

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