Mobile
Commentary
6/25/2007
10:47 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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The iPhone Is Not A Smartphone, And Nokia Knows IT

On the heels of last week's news that Nokia is selling its E and N series devices through Dell's Web site, today Nokia made its enterprise phones much more widely available. Nokia is partnering with a number of distribution channels to push its Wi-Fi-enabled E61i and E65 to business users. But this tactic won't affect iPhone sales come Friday.

On the heels of last week's news that Nokia is selling its E and N series devices through Dell's Web site, today Nokia made its enterprise phones much more widely available. Nokia is partnering with a number of distribution channels to push its Wi-Fi-enabled E61i and E65 to business users. But this tactic won't affect iPhone sales come Friday.I'm going to have to disagree with InformationWeek editor Richard Martin, who calls this move by Nokia a counterpunch to the Apple iPhone. True, Nokia happens to be making this big enterprise announcement the very same week the iPhone is being released, but I don't think the iPhone and Nokia's E series devices are competitors.

The reason? The E series phones, based on Symbian S60, are smartphones. The iPhone is not a smartphone. It is not meant for enterprise users. Apple may claim that it is a solid messaging device, that it syncs with your contacts databases, and that it can view Microsoft Word and Excel files, but it doesn't have near the enterprise integration capabilities that true smartphones offer. And it doesn't run third-party applications. (The Sarafi-based "apps" that Steve Jobs said developers could create for the iPhone don't count.) The iPhone may offer a fancy UI and other advanced interactivity, but in the end, most of the services it provides (Google Maps, music playback, video playback, SMS, mobile e-mail) are available on other, far-less-expensive feature phones.

Devices that use the Palm OS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS, and Symbian S60 are smartphones. They all will run third-party applications to enhance user productivity, provide deeper levels of security and VPN access, as well as high levels of customization. The iPhone is a locked platform and, in theory, is no different from other locked platforms that are sold by the network operators.

This announcement from Nokia makes it clear who it is targeting: Enterprise users. The E series phones all run the Symbian S60 smartphone platform, have Wi-Fi, offer access to push mobile e-mail services and back-end integration with Exchange. They are for business users. Analysts agree. "Nokia understands that businesses buy IT solutions through their trusted IT channel source, and offering mobility solutions -- including mobile devices -- via this channel is an important step in making end-to-end mobility solutions available for business customers in this market," said Eugene Signorini, Yankee VP for enterprise applications and mobile solutions. "Through the Nokia for Business Channel Program, Nokia is empowering resellers to prepare for the evolution and growth of the mobility market in North America."

I highly doubt that Apple is expecting any phone calls from IT managers at Company X looking to bulk order 100 iPhones for its sales force.

While prosumers may blur the line a little bit between consumer and enterprise users, in the end functionality will win out. I will be very curious to see how users of QWERTY-enabled smartphones, such as BlackBerrys, adapt to the keyboardless iPhone. Even more so, I'd like to know how many will end up returning the iPhone because it doesn't do what their BlackBerrys did.

Of course, I doubt all that many people lined up ahead of time to snag the new BlackBerry Curve when it was made available to AT&T customers last month. You can be sure that at least a few will do just that for the iPhone on Friday.

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