Last year, during the iPhone 2.0 SDK Event, Apple unleashed a slew of enterprise-aimed initiatives. Phil Schiller took the stage to showcase Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync licensing, as well as 802.1x, Cisco VPN, certificates, remote wipe, configuration tools, and more.
Schiller didn't show up at the iPhone 3.0 Sneak Peek event (not until the apres-Q&A at least), and Apple didn't announce something as spectacular as Exchange support this year. But was there anything compelling for businesses this time around?
First, it's important to dispel a common internet smartphone fallacy -- not all businesses are the same. Not every business, not even every megacorp, is staffed entirely with suits devoted exclusively to messaging 24x7. Many may be, but not all. Business comes in wondrous diversity, and iPhone 3.0 might have a few things that appeal to these diverse businesses.
- Anti-Phishing. Added to the iPhone Safari browser, this technology hopes to protect users from malicious websites that try to steal login, credit card, or other serious data. As more and more attacks target enterprise users (especially executives via "spear phishing"), more security is better will be a theme we'll be returning to often.
- Call log: For those who need to document their time and activities on the phone, the greater detail provided in iPhone 3.0 will be welcomed.
- Create meeting invitations: Okay, so iPhone 2.0's ActiveSync implementation wasn't exactly full featured, with one of the most often-talked about omissions being the lack of any meeting invitation creation functionality. Check that box off with 3.0.
- Encrypted profiles. We're not sure what this means for the iPhone yet, but encryption in general -- providing it's strong encryption -- is typically of value to businesses that need to protect both their own data, and the data of customers. We do know that iTunes 8.1, in conjunction with iPhone 3.0, allows for password protected encrypted backups. This is a great addition for the very same reason.
- Languages: Business is increasingly international. Thanks to its virtual-keyboard, the iPhone can seamlessly transition from one language to another without requiring a different model or the physical transplantation of keys. Adding in Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Thai, and other new languages to 3.0, to go with Japanese, Chinese, and all the languages added to 2.0, makes the iPhone of even greater value to frequent, multi-national business travelers.
- LDAP: The lightweight directory access protocol is now supported for Contacts, which will allow an iPhone to hook into the enterprise directory store. Apple has it's own, open-source CardDAV protocol as well, but the focus on LDAP this time around is likely to mean much more to far more businesses right now.
- Notes sync. It was a long time coming, but with 3.0 users will be able to sync notes back and forth between the iPhone and the Mac's Mail client. Yeah... that's it so far, but Apple will need to provide a Windows alternative at some point, and we're hoping for full-on Exchange and MobileMe support as well.
- OTA Profiles: Over the air profiles... yeah, we're stumped to. Profiles typically imply greater and more specific control, so this could be a benefit, but we'll need to wait for more information.
- Proxy support. Another expansion to the iPhone's internet prowess, the ability to use proxy servers will make life easier for businesses that make use of, or require, various types of proxy connections. (And yes, insert Hulu for international users comment here...)
- Revoke certs. Again, details are sketchy, but with 2.0 giving us certificates for 2 factor authentication, we're guessing 3.0 lets us take those certificates away when and as needed. Again, more options and more security is better for business.
- VPN on demand: Another feature we don't have details on yet, but with 2.0 Apple provided the ability to connect via secure virtual private network protocols. However, the feature had to be manually enabled and disabled. We're hoping this makes it a more seamless experience.
Again, there are different types of business. Other new features may be of value to creative professionals, for example, such as YouTube accounts, Audio/Video tags, and live streaming. What's likely to be of more value to everyone, however, are those 1000 new APIs Apple also announced at the event. These will let businesses themselves create customized, highly functional apps for their specific user needs.
Apple focused on these too, such as the new accessory access for the SDK, which lets peripherals talk to the iPhone via Bluetooth or 30-pin dock port. We saw demos of this being used in the medical field for blood pressure and diabetes instruments. It's not hard to imagine the iPhone serving as a control, data visualizer, and ubiquitously connected communicator for all manner of special tools.
Hook it up to a scanner, a camera, a car... The possibilities are endless.
In-app email, embed-able Google maps, peer-to-peer (P2P) Bluetooth connectivity, custom data types, and other hooks into the system will no doubt prove invaluable to some businesses as well. Not as sexy as last year maybe, but we're thinking it could prove to be far more powerful in the long run.
The BlackBerry will probably remain the king of corporate email messaging for now, but Apple's play for the enterprise market continues to get more compelling, and more importantly, more creative. By providing features and functionality at a pace no other company is matching, and focusing on the many different types of businesses and business needs, their presence and preference in the enterprise will only grow.