Apple's iPhone, which we already have blogged about a couple of times, is a consumer device. However, its introduction raises an issue that strikes at the heart of any business-oriented convergence application or platform: the user interface.
The iPhone made news because it has an innovative UI that finds clever ways to enable the user to do complex things without knowing as much about the device they are using as their kids. The Apple UI lets folks switch between applications so easily that using them in concert becomes intuitive and, dare we say it, fun.
The challenge of facilitating use of all the power of emerging mobile devices and the applications that are being prepared for them is among the most important that the telecommunications and IT industries face. The normal traveling worker is not necessarily adept technically. In fact, he or she often is humorously inept. Does it matter how powerful and potent their smartphone is if they can't access their contact list without calling IT?
Indeed, the need to develop intuitive and simple UIs is even more pressing and challenging in the business sector. Consumers get fancy devices because, naturally, they choose to. It stands to reason that a high percentage are comfortable with technology and either know how to use the device or are willing and able to figure it out. Business users, as a group, have no such predilection. They are given a particular device not because they want it, but because it is deemed a useful tool for their jobs.
In mobility, the consumers often heavily influence and presage what happens on the business front. The good news is that Apple isn't alone. Alltel, for instance, has introduced a new UI, Celltop, and LG and Prada are offering a keypad-less UI, though to this point not in the states. Those also are consumer plays. It's only a matter of time, however, before we see slick UIs aimed at business-oriented handsets.