UK-based Synchronica has updated its Mobile Gateway 3.0 middleware to let iPhone users synchronise email with Microsoft Exchange, the company said.

The iPhone, launched last month in the US and due in the UK by the end of this year is squarely aimed at consumers, and the likes of Gartner have warned businesses against touching it with a bargepole.

But there's also a consensus that businesses will have to deal with the device, which sold around 700,000 units in its first week, whether they like it or not.

However, so far Apple is only allowing third parties to write applications for the device via its web browser, meaning software makers have had to use their ingenuity to add features such as Exchange compatibility.

Visto, for instance, which usually writes small handset-based applications to allow its email sync functions to work, will use a desktop PC-based application to forward corporate email to the iPhone. The company is to offer trials of the service in the third quarter.

Synchronica doesn't rely on handset-based applications, but normally works with handsets that support the SyncML and Push-IMAP specifications for synchronising email, contacts and calendar information.

Since the iPhone doesn't support either standard, users will need to set up the device's built-in email client to poll for updates as they do with their personal email.

Mobile Gateway doesn't require system administrators to open ports in the firewall or install Exchange connectors. Instead it uses a separate server, located behind the firewall, that sucks in email via Outlook Web Access, already activated on many corporate email accounts.

Companies can also opt for a version of Mobile Gateway hosted by the wireless service provider.

"IT managers are not going to permit their executives to synchronise a device that requires them to punch holes in the corporate firewall," said Synchronica chief executive Carsten Brinkschulte.

The software supports Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes and Sun JES, and already works with handsets from the likes of Nokia and Motorola that support the broadly used SyncML standard.