IT Execs Intrigued But Skeptical of iPhone Corporate Support
Apple Inc. said
"Apple has never shown any meaningful interest in the enterprise space, so today's news seems to be driven more from the success of iPhone's adoption with consumers," said George McQuillister, client computing architect for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in San Francisco, which has 15 million gas and electric customers. "The SDK release seems to want to say that Apple has the enterprise blessing and that everything is wine and roses, but I will believe it when I see it."
McQuillister said he had to issue a memo to 20,000 PG&E employees last summer after the first version of iPhone was released to explain why his IT shop was not allowing the use of iPhone internally. "I was concerned it didn't have the management controls and security we needed," he explained.
And today "I'm going to tell everybody the same thing, that it's too early for the adoption stage," McQuillister said. And if users protest "I'll get bigger guards," he said with a laugh, admitting that the device is popular among PG&E workers.
Is Apple Serious Enough?
Beyond whether the 2.0 release is even enterprise-ready from a technology standpoint, McQuillister questioned whether Apple in general has a serious enough attitude toward corporate customers to want their business in a major way.
"If you truly want the enterprise businesses, it seems to me you'd put together an entire package for all sorts of products needed in a large business," he added. "Maybe a major strategy is what's coming, and they are truly creating a new business model, but so far I'd say there's no readily apparent enterprise objective."
Apple released a list of 10 companies that supported the 2.0 beta, including Cisco Systems, Nike, Walt Disney Co., and Microsoft, which makes the Exchange e-mail product that will be rolled out in the 2.0 upgrade in June.
In its statement, Apple quoted Roland Paanakker, CIO at Nike, as saying he would "look forward to deploying more iPhones to more business users" because of the Exchange functionality.
Disney's Randy Brooks, senior vice president of IT for strategy and architecture, was quoted in the Apple statement saying that Apple had "really done their homework, addressing issues of security, manageability, and integration." Brooks said Disney has hundreds of iPhone users and expects the demand to "grow significantly with this release."
Wait and See Attitudes
Two top-level IT managers for a large global financial company and a global consumer goods company said in separate interviews that they were eagerly awaiting today's news, but still needed more details around security to be able to say whether they could endorse using iPhones internally. Both asked to remain anonymous, citing company policies about being quoted in the press.
"I think today's news is positive," one of the executives said, adding that many employees have wanted to use the iPhone. "However, since the first launch, we have wanted a BlackBerry Enterprise Server-like product" to allow the enterprise to manage devices from its own server.
Short of that approach, with Exchange, this IT executive said it would be "mandatory" for Apple to release which APIs (application programming interfaces) it can expose so that a third-party security provider could bolster the iPhone.
The executive said Apple was shown what security guarantees were needed under a secrecy agreement, but that Apple refused to honor its end. "We've been talking with Apple for eight months and they haven't shared the information," the executive said. "That's only one-way sharing, and they have to change that mindset if they want to make progress with us and the enterprise. Maybe they will eventually become more corporate focused, but they are definitely NOT enterprise focused now."
The other IT executive said support for Exchange would allow users "to hook into the corporate e-mail system but [it] doesn't address many of the security, privacy and ROI concerns that still revolve around the platform."
That executive said the news was not enough to make the iPhone its corporate standard smart phone device, adding, "possibly the SDK will allow for more robust business applications on the device which could cause us to change our thinking, but I'm not convinced of this yet."