Verizon iPhone's Muted Enterprise Reaction

Carl Weinschenk

By now, everyone-with the possible exception of folks climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or sailing solo around the world-know that Verizon has finally announced an iPhone. The only question that matters to business people-or, more precisely, people when they have their professional hats on-is whether the device should be used at work.

The reviews, as they say, are in. It seems that the meter is slightly on the side of this not being a big deal for the enterprise community.

BNET's Damon Brown has a dour post on the announcement. He is down on the Verizon iPhone's enterprise potential due to the phone's lack of tethering capabilities, inability to use Flash, and privacy and security weaknesses. Brown references a post by fellow BNET-er Erik Sherman, which points to poor security. Brown's conclusion:

Yes, millions of fanboys (and girls) will snap up the Verizon iPhone immediately, but it is doubtful that small business and corporate customers will switch over. Google provides more phone options, Palm and Blackberry know the business audience, and Microsoft, though new with Windows Phone 7, has a long reputation with corporations and promises compatibility with its PC products.

This is wireless and these folks are bloggers so, of course, there is no unanimity of opinion. ZDNet's Eric Lai takes a far more positive view of the potential for the device in the enterprise. He directly responds to Brown's negative comments, and adds three other positives about the move. The most compelling is that the move will lead to a great increase in available applications.

At FierceMobileIT, Lynnette Luna, while saying she is thinking of getting one of the devices herself, doesn't seem overwhelmed by its enterprise potential. She points out that the standard the Verizon Wireless iPhone 4 will use-Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA)-makes it unable to roam in Europe. In the short term, she says, there are contract terminations fees involved in the switchover from other phones.

Michael J. de la Merced, writing the Deal Book banking column at The New York Times, spun Apple's prospects as a slight net negative. While the AT&T version of the iPhone of course has gained business customers-10 percent of units sold, according to Apple COO Tim Cook-the tone of the story suggests that enterprises won't go Verizon iPhone-happy. He highlighted potential security and connectivity problems and wrote:

Apple has addressed several of those matters already, including adding Exchange support to link users to their Outlook mail and calendars and enabling tougher hardware and software security on the iPhone. But don't expect a majority of corporate road warriors to be slinging iPhones from their hips anytime soon.

Forbes' columnist Bob Egan lays out issues for enterprise users to think about: Two are lack of support for Verizon's emerging Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G network, the expectation that Apple has a device in the pipeline that could be hotter and termination fees. Egan echoed Luna's concerns about termination fees and international roaming. He did say that "the only new (and certainly cool) feature" is the ability to use the phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

The observers-which also include IT Business Edge's Rob Enderle, who suggests that organizations should wait for the Verizon LTE iPhone-appear to be neutral to slightly negative about the enterprise prospects for the Verizon iPhone. This is a first take, of course. The critics will be shown wrong or vindicated-or a little of both-next month, when the Verizon iPhone launches.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 15, 2011 11:35 AM Simon Elison Simon Elison  says:

Weird that all these pundits are ignoring the realities happening within industry:

1. Verizon has been traditionally very weak in the international market, due to the few handsets that properly support both standard technologies and Verizon's technology.  The iPhone already handles the international market very well.

2. Android isn't an option in Corporate America.  With countless versions of Android and it's severe security limitations, Android is at the bottom of the barrel in terms of corporate support.  In contrast, Apple has has top notch Microsoft Exchange support for several years now, and has been picked up by hundreds of major corporations.  Want security?  You have two choices: BlackBerry and iPhone.  The others?  Unproven or a known problem.  Again, ask any informed IT director.

3. LTE isn't there yet for Verizon or anyone else - after all, LTE does yet support voice phone calls, and the standard has yet to be defined, and no voice-capable cell phone chips are available for LTE!  Want LTE on your cell phone?  Great!  Want LTE for voice calls?  You are out of luck, on ANY provider and EVERY handset on the market today.

4. No tethering on the iPhone?  Wrong.  It has supported tethering since iOS3.  Yep, tethering again has been supported for YEARS, and hotspotting will be available in WEEKS... on both Verizon and other carriers. 

5. Flash is still a limitation of the iPhone?  Certainly he has never seriously used Flash on any other handset.  It is more of a limitation, drain, and a reliability and security nightmare.  Jobs stance on Flash makes sense - as any IT director about how much trouble Flash is; ask any Android user how crappy Flash is on their phone... trust me, I've tried and suffered.

6. Corporations that have a long term contract with Verizon now have the choice of the iPhone, instead of having to have multiple contracts with multiple vendors.  This is a huge deal, as the iPhone is simply the strongest mobile handset out there, in terms of reliability and capability.  It is a big deal, and many corporations will embrace the technology.

Research, THEN publish!


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