Wednesday, July 25, 2007

iPhone Business Usage

CRN (Channel Reseller News) and CRN Tech have recently had two commentaries regarding the business practicality of Apple's iPhone. First was Frank J. Ohlhorst's The iPhone Has No Business In Business where Ohlhorst compares the Apple iPhone hype to that of Windows 95 and deems the iPhone as inferior to BlackBerry, Treo, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices for business use. Ed Moltzen then posted a follow up blog entry entitled A Pro-Business Argument For The iPhone where he says the following:

The iPhone has pretty darn good push email functionality (if you can sync your Yahoo, AOL, Gmail, or .Mac email to the device.) You can also set up POP mail or Exchange (if IMAP support is set up on the Exchange Server.) For those who can access Lotus Notes via webmail, you can do that on the iPhone's Safari browser although sending email or performing other Notes functions can be mind-bendingly difficult. (But if you can auto-forward Notes email to another account, like Yahoo, that works fine.) The bottom line for email on the iPhone: for most people it will work well.

Two things are bothersome with the above statements.

One, saying that the iPhone works with Exchange and then throwing in a caveat in parentheses is misleading. Unfortunately, respected technology journalist Walt Mossberg falls into the same trap in his iPhone review, "It can also handle corporate email using Microsoft’s Exchange system, if your IT department cooperates by enabling a setting on the server." Saying the iPhone works with Exchange as long as a system administrator flips a setting is like saying that John is a millionaire (as long as he buys the winning lottery ticket). Unless someone with a 'C' as the first letter in her title (CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO) is carrying the iPhone, don't expect that setting to get flipped. Additionally, the Microsoft Exchange Team has posted their own rebuttal to Walt Mossberg's statement.

Two, even suggesting that iPhone users auto-forward their email to another service is absolutely ludicrous. Not only does it go against almost all business security policies, but in some cases forwarding email in that manner can open a company up to liability as well. Also, how would clients react to finding out that their email sent to is passing through (or residing on) Yahoo's, Google's, or AOL's email servers? Definitely not positively. Of course it still happens where people do this, but to suggest it as standard operating procedure is irresponsible.

Regardless of whether the iPhone becomes a staple of business use or not, the attention that this topic receives is good for the industry as a whole. As Ohlhorst points out, "[b]ut the hype does have benefits for the channel—namely, the resurgence of interest in mobile applications and business communications devices." Reminds one of the old saying -- "There is no such thing as bad publicity".

(Special thanks to Nino Benvenuti for editing this entry.)

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