Once the domain of RIM’s BlackBerry and Palm’s Treo, the corporate smartphone segment is about to get a new player – the Apple iPhone Enterprise. Apple announced several initiatives to make the iPhone more corporate IT friendly, with the hopes of dramatically expanding the iPhone’s reach beyond the consumer segment. The move is all a part of the so called iPhone 2.0 Software initiative, which also involves a new iPhone software development kit (SDK) for third party developers. Apple will encourage application development for the iPhone and will open an iPhone store for the distribution of third party applications. On the enterprise side, the iPhone will now support Microsoft Exchange, the widely used corporate email platform, and allow for “push” email capability, and calendar and contacts synchronization. Additionally, iPhone software 2.0 also supports Cisco IPsec VPNs and WPA2 Enterprise with 802.1x authentication — the standard for Wi-Fi network security. Apple will use Microsoft’s ActiveSync Direct Push technology, and hopes that the new applications, combined with employee requests for iPhone support, will push corporate IT departments to adopt it as a corporate smartphone option.
Apple will have some difficulty. The enterprise smartphone sector is ruled by RIM’s BlackBerry, and to a lesser extent, Palm’s Treo line. Corporate IT departments have never been known to enthusiastically embrace new options like the Apple iPhone. In their eyes, the iPhone’s cool design and form are meaningless. It’s just one more piece of hardware and software to get up to speed on, troubleshoot, and train “clueless” staff on. Many of them will say no thank you, at least initially. They will argue that the BlackBerry is meeting their needs just fine, “thank you very much.” I could be proven wrong. I suspect that many of the folks running IT departments already have either iPhones or an iPod or two. They may already be under Apple’s spell, and consequently more open to supporting the iPhone, than say one from Nokia. Of course the iPhone’s limited carrier reach due to its exclusivity with AT&T limits its appeal as well. Whatever the case, Apple’s making a case for the enterprise and taking on some pretty well entrenched competitors. It will be interesting to watch.