3G iPhone fast but lacks management tools mobile enterprises need

The new iPhone has third-party support and the faster 3G network, but enterprise mobile managers still need better security and management tools before they can risk a wide deployment.

The rumors were true: On Monday, Steve Jobs announced Apple's new 3G iPhone, complete with GPS, third-party applications and improved enterprise support. But the device still lacks the management tools enterprises need.

Apple is clearly trying to reach into the enterprise mobility market with the new iPhone. It comes with support for Microsoft Exchange and push email, as well as enterprise application deployment from private servers. It also leverages GPS for a variety of location-based services, including mapping features and determining which of your contacts are nearby.

It does all this at a greatly reduced price point, too, coming in at $199, which Jobs said was subsidized by carrier contracts.

Apple also announced MobileMe, an evolution to its .Mac platform, which syncs data across the Mac, PC and iPhone worlds, alongside a slick Web interface to check email, file storage and contacts, for $99 a year.

For Jack Gold, principal of J. Gold Associates, the news on the enterprise front is still pretty shallow.

"I didn't hear a lot of anything new, to be honest," he said, pointing to Apple's previous announcements of Microsoft Exchange support and third-party applications.

The MobileMe suite, which Jobs dubbed as "Exchange for the rest of us," might be great for personal use, Gold said, but keeping files centralized on Apple's services would keep enterprises at bay. The key problem is still security, he said.

"It's not just about syncing it up, it's about what I've got on this device, how to protect it," Gold said. "How do I protect the data people download to that device? There's no encryption mechanism today inherent on the device."

This is one area, at least, where the competition has a large lead, he said.

"Anything that I store on a BlackBerry is encrypted. Even Microsoft, with the new services they're going to offer ... will allow encrypting files on the device," Gold said. "For many users in a large organization, that's imperative. People can crack passwords, and ... who knows, business plans, competitive assessment. I can read everything you've got on there."

The other key question that Gold said remained unanswered was how to manage these devices. While BlackBerry and Windows Mobile both come with robust solutions, the announced options for the iPhone remain slim.

There will still be some adoption, Gold said, driven by management and executives drawn to the iPhone's slick interface and hassle-free use. While IT departments may cringe at what it lacks, they can only push so hard against the Apple attraction.

The new phone, available in 70 countries on July 11, still bears Apple's trademark stylish elements: It retains dimensions almost identical to those of the original iPhone and is just a hair lighter, at 4.7 ounces.

The brushed-metal back has been replaced by a black or white plastic casing for the 16GB model, with only a black casing available for the 8GB model.

Beyond those executive users attracted to the trendy style of the iPhone, the device will remain on the periphery of enterprise devices, Gold said.

"There will be a few companies that say that's cool," he said, "but I don't know that that's a compelling reason to buy these."

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