During the iPhone SDK Roadmap event today, Apple strolled up to RIM, slipped out a glove, dropped a brick into it, and slapped out one "boom" of a challenge.
Blackberry is an email monster, no doubt about it. Intoxicating "push" delivery and back-end IT administration have made it the darling of the enterprise world. But it isn't without problems: due to the centralized server-model RIM utilizes (where all mail is collected by RIM prior to being pushed out to end-users), there's a single point of failure for all Blackberry users everywhere (as seen in two recent, service-wide outages) -- and a single point of exploit as well (where an attack on RIM's server could compromise the privacy and security of the entire user base).
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Apple is eager to exploit this weakness -- so eager, in fact, they went right into the belly of the beast itself: they licensed Microsoft ActiveSync to provide direct Exchange support for iPhone.
Come the iPhone (and iPod Touch) 2.0 firmware update targeted for a late June release, every user will be able to enjoy instant "push" access to a wide gamut of Exchange services, including:
- Push email. Write a message, it appears instantly (web congestion notwithstanding) on another Exchange user's client.
- Calendar integration. Add an event and, "boom", it's in Exchange.
- Push contacts. Create or update a contact and everyone sharing gets the update right away.
- Global address list. You get your company's contacts, updated live all the time.
- Enterprise level security. Including Cisco IPsec VPN, authentication and certificates, 802.1x, policies, configuration tools, and remote device wipes.
Still not convinced Apple has slid up to RIM's lunch, fork in hand? Phil Schiller, VP of Marketing, displayed a nice slide showing iPhone's simple Exchange connection (iPhone - Exchange) compared to RIM's more complex model (Blackberry - NOC - Message Server - Exchange).
"Microsoft has come up with a much more advanced architecture, where the iPhone can work directly with the Exchange server in a more reliable and affordable way." (Engadget)
"You should ask [RIM if Apple is sending them a message]... we're not sending them a message, we're sending customers and developers a message that we're trying to serve their needs." (Engadget)
"Why aren't CIOs really worried about security? Every email message sent to or from a RIM device goes through a NOC up in Canada. Now, that provides a single point of failure, but it also provides a very interesting security situation. Where someone working up at that NOC could potentially be having a look at your email. Nobody seems to be focused on that. We certainly are."
Bringing up Nike and Disney, while a little nepotistic given the relationships, as well as pointing to academic institution Stanford, put some real-world business deployment on the table. Apple sure does seem serious.
So, should RIM worry? Will legions of CrackBerry addicts give up their hardware keyboards and defect, en-masse, to Apple's Mobile Platform? Or are they immune to the famed Reality Distortion Field, and laughing even now at Apple's eye-candy attempts to woo IT? Is Gruber right, "This doesn’t make the iPhone a BlackBerry killer, but the iPhone can do more BlackBerry-ish things than the BlackBerry can do iPhone-ish things." What do you think?