Gartner on Wednesday recommended the iPhone for business, saying changes Apple is making to the smartphone will match similar corporate features found in competing platforms, including Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Microsoft Windows Mobile, and Symbian Series 60.
Gartner's announcement is a reversal of the analyst firm's previous decision, which nixed the initial launch of the iPhone out of concerns over security. On March 6, however, Apple released in beta software development tools for building applications that run on the iPhone's Mac OS X-based operating system. Apple in June plans to release a new version of the OS with features specifically aimed at businesses.
"In its initial release, the iPhone was, with few exceptions, an Internet tablet with browser-based applications as its main offering, however, the release of firmware 2.0 changes that, enabling enterprises to develop local code and create applications that do not depend on network capabilities," Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said in a statement. "The iPhone will thus match up initially in several segments against its main smartphone competitors -- BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian Series 60."
In essence, Gartner has found that once all the technology is in place, the iPhone will be ready for use on corporate networks for accessing calendar and contact information, e-mail, and business applications. Among the biggest corporate enhancements was support for Microsoft Exchange e-mail server, Cisco virtual private networks, and the WPA2 security standard for Wi-Fi connections.
These improvements are expected to "open up a huge market for the iPhone, which previously had been stymied by a lack of basic business security and application functionality," Dulaney said. "However, Apple must widen distribution and of course deliver what they have promised."
If businesses adopt the iPhone, then Apple could become a mainstream supplier of client development tools, Gartner said. However, companies adopting Apple technology will have to obtain training in the products and be prepared to buy future technologies.
In addition, because the iPhone is also a consumer device, "enterprises should thoroughly review the platform's management and security options to understand how they can control any consumer elements of the platform that may pose a risk," Dulaney said.
Apple released the iPhone software development kit in beta March 6, giving developers the same tools and application programming interfaces that Apple engineers use to develop iPhone software. Before releasing the SDK, Apple tried to keep all application development restricted to the device's Safari Web browser. That plan, however, fell apart as developers complained they needed access to the iPhone's OS in order to build richer software.