iPhone OS 3.0: What it Means for Business

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.

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhone OS 3.0: What it Means for Business


Wow. Lots of new things I don't have any clue about ! ^_^
Can someone clarify ' in-app ' email ?
I haven't heard of that yet. Thanks.

"... not all businesses are the same. Not every business, not even every megacorp, is staffed entirely with suits devoted exclusively to messaging 24×7."
Thank you for pointing this out! I've been trying to get this through to so many people!
I have two ecommerce businesses and have pretty much everything I need on the iPhone right now (notes sync will be great), and with LogMeIn, I can fill in most of the gaps that the iPhone lacks. Not all of us business people need to edit docs or reply to emails within seconds. I would however like full QuickBooks capability (without being online). That's first on my business wish list. So if there's a dev out there who can do it... PLEASE!

@OmariJames: it means you can send email without exiting an app. for example, your application wants to send spreadsheet, before it would open Mail and you will type staff in mail app, now it can be done from within your application.

My guess on the OTA Profiles is this: The iPhone Enterprise management kit allows for the creation of profiles, or locked down settings. This includes, but is not limited to, wifi configs, vpn configuration, and other various settings. To apply these profiles, one must copy the file to the phone using the kit's built in webserver. OTA Profiles probably allows administrators to push these profiles to the handset OTA rather than it being a "pull" system, eliminating the need for administrators to get their paws on the phone to configure it first.

Other than those who can run their business out of their back pocket like Steve, the iphone is still at a severe disadvantage in the corporate world and it will stay that way until Apple comes out with another sync method other than itunes.
First, most large corps, military, and government do not allow you to install un-approved third party software, and especially one that is essentially a music player and basically an over blown advertising platform for itunes Store.
(You can't even get on many military bases with an Iphone. I live near severl large Naval bases and no camera phones are allowed, but that's a different issue).
Apple needs to provide a client for sync and management of the phone without the embedded music player features, without Bonjour (another corporate no-no), and without access to the iTunes store.

@ icebike
You do know that the u.s. military has bought over a million iphones right?
am i the onlty one who watches the keynote addresses lol

"(And yes, insert Hulu for international users comment here…)" -- proxy really won't help with that seeing how there is no Flash on the iPhone so Hulu on the iPhone is not possible for anyone.

The iPhone may have more hurdles getting accepted in large corporations (although, I don't think it is as bad as some would lead us to believe). However, in the company where I am IT Director, we have five iPhones being supported. I have had to offer WinMo, Palm, and BB support as well. By far, the iPhone has proven to be the easiest in every aspect. I can have ActiveSync email set up on the iPhone in five minutes tops. I can't even get it that fast on a WinMo phone. Go figure!!
I think many naysayers haven't taken the time to check facts. I have run across MANY people within corporate America who have and LOVE their iPhones...even with its current shortcomings.

And still no native text editing, spreadsheet, or presentation apps. But they did win big time in the games market.

I'm going to take an educated guess about over-the-air profiles. While I don't know about the enterprise management system I do know that developers need to create a "mobileprovision" profile that must be synced to an iphone in order to test an application. This could be problematic especially when beta testing with large numbers of people since as of right now you must get the "identifier" number of all the testers and have them sync the app AND the profile. The problem is there's no option in itunes to sync profiles and it happens seemingly randomly, this has caused me issues in the past. OTA Profiles could easily work by submitting the identifier numbers of each iphone in the beta test (you have to do this currently) and have it pushed to the phone automatically since it's a tiny file.

My company and most companys are on BES(business enterprise server) until APPLE releases something that can compete with this, there is no competition.

The GM version if free to everybody, developer or not...
Just download it and install it :P
And yes the iPhone supports scripts send to the iPhone and you can edit settings that way around, as for IT support on larger corporate networks..
And FYI there are no adds in itunes :D
It's bloaded like F**K but it's ad free ;P