August 04, 2008, 2:03 PM — Apple's new iPhone 3G arrived a few weeks ago. Did you miss the news? Not likely. It was everywhere. There were rave reviews about the new hardware and features, all delivered at a much lower price than the original iPhone.
The more interesting news for enterprises, though, involves the new iPhone and iPod Touch 2.0 software that comes installed on the 3G phone and is also available for the first-generation devices. That's because the iPhone is a now a bona fide software platform.
That's good for Apple; everyone wants to be a platform. It's a powerful way to generate revenue. But it's good for you, too, because it means the iPhone is positioned to be a more enterprise-friendly device. You need it to be enterprise-friendly because, like it or not, it's already a business device. Any technology your CEO wants to use is a de facto business device, and the iPhone has been very attractive to a lot of CEOs.
All device vendors have to overcome a hurdle, a sort of natural catch-22, to make their products into platforms. Developers won't bother with a device until it has a solid base, something north of a million units. And vendors usually can't get to that level very easily without third-party applications to back up their own software offerings. Apple broke this logjam by producing a device that was different, and sexy, enough to make millions of people want to buy it, even without the promise of much third-party gear to add on.
One of the most important things that will make it much easier for Apple to get the iPhone into business users' hands is support for Exchange. I had no problems syncing my Exchange data to the iPhone. A lot of folks are dependent on Exchange, so this new ability has made the iPhone a first-class corporate citizen.
Apple also released tools to let IT managers remotely configure and control iPhones on their networks. In combination with Exchange syncing, that should allow Apple to make new inroads into the enterprise, with the iPhone acting as a Trojan horse for other Apple devices and services. IT departments of the world, you have been warned: Beware of geeks bearing gifts.
Another important development is the App Store. It's this store that heralds the arrival of the iPhone platform and all that that means, namely, thousands of developers to work on applications, and a large influx of venture capital to fund the ecosystem.
Eventually, developers will greatly add to what the iPhone can do in ways that will attract both consumers and business users. There are already some interesting applications in the store, and I'm sure things will only heat up as developers really start to learn how to get the most from the platform. And who knows how corporate developers will take to the platform for line-of-business applications?
By the way, if you really didn't see any of those iPhone 3G reviews, I can tell you that it's still a handsome device with good hand feel, despite the replacement of the metal backing with plastic. The 3G speed is impressive, and GPS has worked well for me in northern New Jersey. Sound is excellent, a notable improvement over the first generation.
Battery life remains far from stellar. But that's the thing about smart phones: We love to have them loaded with features, but those features severely cut into battery life. A removable battery would be nice, but I've learned to live with sealed batteries after years of iPod use. I'd like more Bluetooth profiles, but for most people, Bluetooth is just for hands-free use.
Then there's the lack of cut-and-paste. How hard could it be, Apple? (Well, actually, it took Microsoft three generations to get it into its smart-phone version of Windows Mobile.)
Michael Gartenberg is vice president and research director for the personal technology and access and custom research groups at JupiterResearch in New York. Contact him at email@example.com. His weblog and RSS feed are at http://weblogs.jupiterresearch.com/analysts/gartenberg.