Here We Go Again: Is iPhone OS 3.0 Sturdy Enough for Business?

Carl Weinschenk

The popularity of the iPhone-and the coming this summer of the iPhone OS 3.0 that will be available as a firmware upgrade-raises the same old questions of whether enterprises should sanction use of the Apple device.

 

Strategy Analytic's Philippe Winthrop sounds a cautionary note. He concludes that the inability to run background applications makes it a tough sell for businesses. This inability makes it impossible to run true mobile device management (MDM) applications that are an increasingly important element of robust mobile workforce oversight. MDM-as I discussed with Aberdeen Senior Research Analyst Andrew Borg last week-is vital. While Winthrop points out that some MDM functions will be possible in iPhone OS 3.0 through ActiveSync, they do not, in his words, offer "a full suite" of capabilities.


This is the first of five comparative pieces written by ZDNet's Matthew Miller that pit iPhone OS 3.0 running on an iPhone 3G against a variety of other smartphones. In this case, Miller makes the comparison to the Palm Pre. Miller says the upgrades to iPhone OS 3.0 are backward compatible to the earlier versions. Miller says some nice, if somewhat generic, things about the platform. He mentions disappointment with the lack of multitasking, which is another way of voicing the same concern as Winthrop. A second problem is that notifications are disruptive. The discussion of the Pre is understandably vague, since the device isn't available. He lauds the Palm WebOS, however.


The interest in bringing the iPhone, new or old, to work is intense. This InformationWeek piece on support for the iPhone in Sybase's iAnywhere Mobile Office quickly turns into a discussion of the prospects for iPhone OS 3.0 in the enterprise. The commentary says that the decision to support the new iPhone operating system shows its popularity in the enterprise, though it still is "thoroughly outpaced" by the BlackBerry. Still, the writer says, the new version of the OS will be more open to enterprise applications, though the writer doesn't say why. Here is another take -- at FierceDeveloper--on what is in iPhone OS 3.0.

 

There is a trend in at least a good deal of the reporting on the coming of iPhone OS 3.0: Essentially, commentators don't think that the new operating system is a huge move toward the enterprise, but they all picture it as a step in the right direction and sense that more steps will follow. In this vnunet.com piece, it isn't actually the new OS itself that causes the optimism. It's the openness to myriad new application programming interfaces (APIs) that will enable such things as the pushing of data and audio and video streaming. The bottom line is that the longer-term impact of the new APIs could be significant and, the writer says, perhaps turn the App Store a bit more toward corporate content.

 

MDM is intrinsically linked to security. eWEEK's assessment of what likely lies ahead for enterprises' use of iPhone OS 3.0 takes a more direct approach to security issues. The reviewer says he was disappointed with previous iterations of iPhone security. Policies were cumbersome to implement, required steps by end users -- something that is looked at askance by security pros -- and were sent in a potentially vulnerable format. The writer says there were hints at the mid-March briefing on iPhone 3.0 that these problems would be addressed in the new OS. Hints are not facts, however, so security personnel should follow up.



More is unknown than known about the enterprise worthiness of iPhone 3.0. There clearly is some optimism, however, that the Apple devices employees are going to bring to work -- whether management wants them to or not -- will be better suited for their jobs than their predecessors.



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