Apple has given the iPhone the ability to log in securely to enterprise networks, boosting its credentials as a business device. The latest software also supports new third party applications including VoIP.
Support for the 802.1x authentication protocol is widely used in enterprise networks, and is therefore required for access to many Wi-Fi LANs, is included in version 2.0 of the iPhone software, which is included in the recently launched iPhone 3G, (read review) can also be downloaded onto 2G iPhones.
Wi-Fi networks with 802.1x will allow clients to connect to an access point, but not to access the network beyond it until they are authorised by a secure, encrypted process handled by an authentication server such as Radius.
The new software adds an 802.1x client or "supplicant" to the iPhone, and can be activated in the Settings application, and configured to it work with the common WPA and WPA2 Wi-Fi security schemes that use 802.1x, by adding an SSID and a password. Glenn Fleishman's Wi-Fi Networking News explains how to do this, but suggests users download the iPhone Configuration Utility from Apple, as this lets users set up profiles for multiple Wi-Fi networks, as well as using VPNs, and other encryption schemes besides WPA.
"Once created, these profiles can be distributed throughout a company via email or as a direct download to the iPhone via an intranet web server," says Fleishman. He warns, however, that Apple has chose not to encrypt these profiles which include information such as the shared secret, so enterprises should take care how they distribute them.
The provision of 802.1x is at least partly in response to an online petition set up in January, in which more than 2,000 people asked Apple for 802.1x, before the company promised it in March as part of the iPhone 2.0 software.
On Friday, Truphone announced that its VoIP application demonstrated in September 2007, is available in Apple's App Store. Truphone lets users make free or cheap calls over Wi-Fi (read review), and the company claims this will increase the return-on-investment for an iPhone, making it cost-effective for companies to provide them to staff.
Fleishman predicts many other enterprise features will follow, including push email, calendar and contact management; as well as better network support and two-factor authentication. Other software now available includes Funambol's software for synchronising contacts and calendar information on the iPhone.