There's been a lot written about the iPhone and the reasons why enterprises should not fully adopt this first-generation device for use by employees. Whether it's the wireless network, lack of strong VPN support, or lack of direct Exchange connections for e-mail, there's enough evidence for you to cite when an executive comes to your office asking for IT iPhone support.
But you shouldn't totally ignore the iPhone, either (perhaps because you will be forced into it, or for these arrguments). There are several good reasons why you should at least pay attention to the device, if for no other reason than to prepare for the eventual second- or third-generation iPhone that will support a 3G network, have Exchange hooks and stronger security. You might want to even buy a few devices for your department to see what the fuss is about.
So what's good about the iPhone?
- Web browsing on a mobile device that works: Remember all of the "WAP is crap" headlines from years ago? Things hadn't improved much, despite what mobile device vendors promised about the ability to Web surf on a handheld gadget. The iPhone fixes this problem, and raises the bar on Web browsing. The Web looks like the Web, and the very cool zoom-in and zoom-out feature (you use two fingers and either "scissor out" or "scissor in" for zooming) makes the small text on the screen problem go away. Even the issue of clicking on a link to go to another Web page is better than anything I've seen; the interface seems to know when I'm clicking a link vs. using my finger to scroll around the page. Because of this, enterprise application developers worried about translating their apps for a mobile environment won't have to worry about special sites or changes for mobile devices.
- Seamless network connections between a WLAN and WAN: When you're in an area where the WAN and Wi-Fi are good, the iPhone does a great job seamlessly connecting you (one assumes the device picks the Wi-Fi connection over the EDGE connection). The best part is that users don't have to worry about the connection, unlike with other devices I've seen for which you can spend hours trying to configure the connection correctly. With more dual-radio devices on the horizon, seamless configuration will be even more important, especially if the device then connects to a faster wireless network.
- Improved phone call features: I don't even know if I have three-way conferencing on my existing phone, much less the combination of menu choices and buttons to push to create such a call. With the iPhone, it's a matter of calling someone, pushing the conference button (putting caller 1 on hold), dialing the second number, and hitting the "merge" button. Easy phone features let users get their work done more efficiently, and the iPhone succeeds here.
- The realisation of work/life convergence: For years, I've seen mobile devices that want to be taken as a "serious business device," so much that they don't want to put a digital camera or an MP3 player on the gadget, for fear that an enterprise IT manager will claim the device as "frivolous" or too consumery. Currently the iPhone has the problem of being the opposite of this - it will need some features to convince IT that it can be taken seriously as a "work device." But even now, Apple understands that users want one device for their life - not just their home life, but for their work life too. Email doesn't care whether you're sending a message to the CEO or your Aunt Mary. A music player doesn't care whether you're listening to a relevant podcast (Twisted Pair!) or Twisted Sister. We used to think convergence was about merging a cell phone with a PDA, but now the word convergence should make you question whether a device can address a user's work applications and personal applications (if they're even different anyway). The iPhone currently understands this convergence better than other devices.
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