Apple's iPhone will soon be "ready for business," according to analysts at research firm Gartner, which originally labeled the popular mobile device unfit for enterprise deployment.
The keys to Gartner's change in attitude are the upcoming June release of the 2.0 version of the iPhone's firmware, which Gartner has labeled "more enterprise-friendly” because it contains several enhancements, including security upgrades.
Most notably, these include Apple's licensing of Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync software, which will allow iPhones to synchronize with Microsoft Exchange email servers.
The new functionalities and security will make the iPhone "ready for primetime to a limited extent," Ken Dulaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, told SCMagazineUS.com on Thursday.
The iPhone – released last summer – "is not a notebook, not even as broad as a Windows Mobile device yet, but for limited application use, it's fine, and that will open tens of millions of opportunities to Apple," Dulaney said.
The new firmware will give the iPhone what Gartner calls "appliance-level" status, which will allow using it in personal information management (PIM) programs, as an email client and in telephony and browsing applications, Dulaney said. It also will permit using the iPhone with a host of other third-party software applications.
The critical upgrades, however, are the licensing of Exchange ActiveSync, support for Cisco's IPSEC virtual private networking (VPN) client software and the addition of WPA2 security for Wi-Fi connections, Dulaney said. Supporting Exchange ActiveSync allows the iPhone to send and receive email through Microsoft's Exchange server, deployed to about 70 percent of enterprise users.
Licensing a Microsoft product represents a "change in attitude for Apple, which has always diminished the security of Microsoft products," Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle, told SCMagazineUS.com. But Apple really had little choice in this, he said.
"To get into the enterprise, Apple had to go in with a partner that is already established,” he said.
The Exchange ActiveSync software also includes a host of enterprise-related security features now lacking with the iPhone, he added.
The software includes approximately 45 security policies that allow enterprise IT professionals to better secure and lock down a mobile device, Dulaney said.
These include remote wipes and requiring the use of complex passwords, he said. The "wipe" capability is particularly important when managing mobile devices, which can easily be lost or stolen.
Gartner last July warned enterprises to expect three or four "critical" patches last year for first-generation versions of the iPhone. Apple released three security updates in 2007.
"Apple's iPhone was designed and developed first and foremost to appeal to the consumer market," the Gartner report said. "Apple didn't include a portfolio of security features and supporting products that are expected by enterprise buyers."