The 3.0 OS on the new Apple iPhone 3G S will make it easier for developers to push enterprise application updates to users' iPhones. Still, if Apple were truly interested in making the iPhone successful in business, it would be doing more.It's not that Apple dislikes the business world. It's just small potatoes compared to the billions of gizmo-dazzled consumers out there. (Besides, demonstrating how one can take a video and post it to YouTube in one swift motion is far more fun for Apple to talk about than, say, CRM applications.)
Among the most business-minded features of the 3G S/3.0 OS rollout is the availability of new APIs that let developers create "push notifications." So, say you're a sales guy that accesses customer records on your iPhone, running on your employer's CRM system. The idea is that you could have an update to a customer record "pushed" to your phone, notifying you of that change with a beep or pop-up box, eliminating the need to go on a hunt-and-peck mission for up-to-date information before your sales calls. Apple also says it has improved hardware encryption on the 3G S, which should make IT shops happy.
But where are the things that really matter to businesses wanting to do a large mobile phone deployment, such as a strong story in the area of mobile management and security? I've talked to several CIOs and IT managers that love their personal iPhones, or those of close acquaintances, but don't see enough effort by Apple to make them feel comfortable with a large deployment of iPhones in the workforce.
So, very well. The business world isn't as interesting as the consumer world. But it seems Apple is missing an opportunity here. I think Apple's theory is that if it can get consumers excited, then they'll take their personal technologies everywhere, including the office, forcing their IT shops to adopt the technology. Then the third-party software market fills in the gaps for things like IT security, letting Apple stick with the fun consumer stuff. I like to call this the consumerization of IT, and it is indeed happening to some degree.
But it goes the other way, too: Business IT has consistently influenced consumer IT. Most people who've bought Macs and PCs for the home learned to use those systems in the office.
So where is the enterprise server software that would let IT shops do a massive wireless rollout of iPhone application updates? Where is the willingness to let enterprise software companies work directly with their business customers on iPhone app rollouts, and for that matter, why doesn't Apple work more closely with enterprise software vendors? Has anyone ever heard of a "partnership" between Apple and enterprise software vendors for the iPhone?
Why do business users have to go through iTunes to get their companies' custom iPhone apps? And where is Apple's rock-solid, detailed IT security and mobile management strategy? The ability to remotely sweep Exchange data clean from lost or stolen 3.0 iPhones is a nice start, but it's only a start.
There's plenty to like about the 3G S: a $99 price on the entry 8GB model, better performance and battery life, and cut-and-paste capabilities among them. But Apple, by addressing only piecemeal many of the things IT shops worry about with mobile management, doesn't seem too interested in making the iPhone work in the enterprise. And that's too bad.