Monday, June 30, 2008

Can iPhone 3G Compete With BlackBerry?

According to a recent survey addressed to 105 CIOs in USA by Sanford Bernstein and published by Financial Times, business is 'yet to be convinced by iPhone'.

"... The findings, part of a broader study that found a more conservative outlook for IT spending this year compared with 2007, suggest that cracking the business market could be a challenge for Apple, which hopes to sell 10 million iPhone handsets by the end of this year.

“Our CIO survey suggests that corporate iPhone use will be driven by employees purchasing their own iPhones, rather than company-wide deployments,” wrote Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Bernstein Research. “If this persists, it may ultimately limit iPhone penetration into the corporate space. ...”

Personally, I don't think it can right now. Currently BlackBerry and the company behind them (RIM) have a well thought out process for all of their current offerings. Apple does not provide the encryption that the BES servers for BlackBerry do. The iPhone is a very fun phone to use .... and can increase productivity .... but it is not a challenge to the BlackBerry right now.

There are some other differences between the two device technologies that also impact this question.

1) By not having a BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) the iPhone is missing some capabilities that are important to the Enterprise customers. Remote Kill is probably the most critical as a lost or stolen device could contain all kind of information that the company doesn't want exposed outside of the corporation. With a Blackberry on a BES a simple command will wipe the device of any useful information. OTA (Over The Air) enforcement of password requirements and similar is another powerful tool for the company IT and Security folks to be aware of. AFAIK there is no equivalent with the iPhone. There are others, but from an enterprise perspective these are probably the most critical.

2) Applications .... While there are some really cool iPhone applications out there, there seems to be a lack of business focus with them so far. That may change if iPhones gain significant enterprise acceptance, but I can see the possibility that these devices may experience a similar problem that we've seen with the MAC. In other words, a lack of business applications for a long time because the business world had standardized on another technology platform. Basically a situation like PC versus MAC. In this case RIM/Windows Mobile/Palm versus iPhone. Sure the iPhone might catch up eventually, but will it be enough to make a difference?

3) Security .... OK the iPhone has TLS. Some versions of the Blackberry have FIPS 140-2. Meaning they meet the standards mandated by the Feds and required for virtually all federal agencies. Which means that the same standards largely apply to many State agencies as well. Which means the same standards apply to many companies that do business with these agencies. Unless the iPhone meets that standard it's precluded from use with such companies/agencies.

4) Features .... The keyboard difference seems to be mentioned often. To many that's enough to keep them using their Blackberry. But to many employers, the entertainment focus of the iPhone is enough to make them unattractive. Many companies feel their employees face enough distractions as it is. Why put a device in their hands that makes it so easy to get distracted?

To summarize, I think the Blackberry is fairly safe for now. Nothing says the iPhone couldn't address it's shortcomings to become more attractive to the business enterprise. But they aren't there today.

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