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4/25/2007
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Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
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Will AT&T Market The iPhone To Business Users?

According to a new report, AT&T may try to market the iPhone to business users as well as consumers. Mobile and enterprise IT analysts, however, are not so cool with the idea.

According to a new report, AT&T may try to market the iPhone to business users as well as consumers. Mobile and enterprise IT analysts, however, are not so cool with the idea.The report is based on an anonymous source at AT&T, but the announcement is not a shock. Given the iPhone's innovative design and features -- as well as its $499 and $599 sticker prices -- business users and enterprise IT departments are a good target. And many insiders have suggested that AT&T and Apple might try to sell the iPhone to business users.

Mobile business analysts, however, recommend that business users avoid the iPhone, at least for now:

If AT&T announces that it will be marketing the phone to enterprise customers, "we'd be against it," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner, who said he hasn't heard of such a plan from the operator. "We'd immediately tell our customers that'd be a very serious mistake."

No matter what kind of reputation a vendor has, if it's making its first phone, Dulaney would be unlikely to recommend it. "Building a phone is one of the most difficult things to do," he said.

Also, the iPhone is expected to have a number of shortcomings for business users, he said. For example, it doesn't have a removable battery. "You'd be crazy to buy without that," Dulaney said. The phone has multiple processors, which consumes more battery life than single processors, he said.

Dulaney isn't alone. Another analyst says that the iPhone's closed OS will make it difficult for most businesses to use the device effectively:

That's one reason that Avi Greengart, principal analyst for mobile devices at Current Analysis, also thinks the iPhone won't be a good option for enterprise customers. Apple has said that the iPhone will run on an OS X-based operating system and told Greengart that enterprises won't be able to write applications for the phone, he said. "Companies like to extend corporate apps to the mobile space and in order to do that you need an open OS," he said. Mobile operating system developers like Windows, Symbian and BlackBerry enable third parties to write applications based on their software.

What do you think? Will AT&T target the iPhone to business users as well as consumers? And if so, will any enterprise IT departments actually deploy the iPhone? Or will it remain an SMB device in the business market?

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