Can agencies take the new iPhones seriously?

Apple’s new lower-cost iPhone 3G moves the smart phone a step further from its consumer roots and closer to a business tool appropriate for public-sector agencies.

For example, the new devices now integrate with Microsoft Exchange Server for secure e-mail. They also support virtual private networks for securely tunneling into databases or applications locked behind agency firewalls. Together, these capabilities raise the stakes necessary for consideration in enterprise environments, said Sean Ryan, a research analyst in IDC’s Mobile Enterprise group.

However, Apple still isn’t giving information technology departments the full-featured device management tools offered by Research in Motion and Microsoft that allow IT shops to centrally control software updates and security policies for their smart phones, Ryan said. Device management consoles can also send a kill pill to lost phones to disable them or wipe clean any agency data housed on the handsets.

The lack of management controls might not be a deal-breaker, depending on an agency’s policies.
“There are a lot of [organizations] out there that don’t use mobile-device management yet, although there should be,” Ryan said.

Also, there are other blots on the iPhone’s allure for business users. One is a dearth of third-party business applications compared with what’s available for BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile devices, Ryan said. Also, Apple’s central activation and applications hub is the company’s iTunes site.
“That’s something that a lot of organizations are maybe a bit less comfortable with,” because of its consumer-oriented look, Ryan added.

About the Author

Alan Joch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.

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