Visto on Thursday announced that its mobile e-mail service will work on the iPhone, giving users access to enterprise e-mail systems.
Apple's upcoming iPhone has been criticized for its lack of support for business applications. IT managers are likely to be put off by the idea of employees bringing in iPhones as their business smartphones. But Visto is hoping to change their mentality with its Visto Mobile service, which will let iPhone users access enterprise e-mail systems, including Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino.
"We saw a need for the iPhone to support corporate e-mail, considering its popularity and price tag. We think professionals would want to get their hands on one, both for business and personal purposes," said Joyce Kim, VP of marketing at Visto, in an interview.
Apple hasn't opened up the iPhone to developers so they can create third-party applications for the iPhone, although CEO Steve Jobs made a promise at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month that Apple is working on it. In the meantime, software providers have to find other ways of getting their apps on the iPhone. Visto will use the IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) standard to deliver business e-mail to the iPhone, said Kim. The iPhone comes with a built-in rich HTML e-mail client, which fetches e-mail in the background from most POP3 (Post Office Protocol version 3) and IMAP e-mail services. This includes most consumer e-mail services like AOL, Yahoo, and Google's Gmail. The client also displays photos and graphics along with the text.
To get started with Visto, iPhone users would have to download on their desktops an application that would then sync up with the iPhone and start sending e-mail back and fourth. A wizard on the desktop will take users through the steps to self-configure on the iPhone. Once they've completed the setup, the iPhone and Visto's desktop app will start synchronizing. "Lack of third-party support is what may hinder the iPhone in the enterprise, but the good news is that e-mail already uses standards that Apple has leveraged," said Kim.
Visto offers a "push e-mail" service similar to the BlackBerry, which delivers e-mail directly from a server to a smartphone. Companies interested in purchasing iPhones in bulk to use with business e-mail can purchase Visto's server-based software that's installed inside the enterprise firewall and integrates with Exchange and Lotus Domino.
Security is another big issue companies need to consider before bringing the iPhone into the enterprise. Visto said its e-mail service uses end-to-end security, which means data is encrypted as it leaves the corporate firewall and travels to the iPhone.
Visto Mobile for the iPhone will be available at the end of the third quarter of this year.