Enterprises Not Gung-Ho on iPhone

by Tabrez Khan    Jul 21, 2008

Mobile computing is fast replacing fixed computing and gadgets like PDAs, smart phones, laptops have been instrumental in driving this revolution.

However, smart phones seem to be lagging behind in finding favor with corporate India. While many senior executives personally vouch for its novelty and usefulness, they have a different perspective on its usage at the enterprise level.

The latest entrant into the enterprise smart phone market is Apple’s iphone which has ruled the fancy of individual users for a year now.

Its sleek touch-screen interface, ease of navigation, great Wi-Fi access, and other value-added features has drawn rave reviews from users and non-users alike. However, what it lacked hitherto were enterprise class features and so the phone largely catered to individual smart phone enthusiasts.

However, with Apple making the enterprise pitch by including additional features into the phone, iPhone is now trying to break new ground. It has been pitted against RIM’s Blackberry, Nokia’s N-series, and similar smart phones. While iPhone certainly is a gadget to impress, it requires more than just sleek looks and easy handling to become the mainstay of enterprise smart phones and mobile computing.

Said V.K. Ramani, executive director of Axis Bank, “I have not personally used it. As far as I know, it has exciting possibilities but I am not looking at it from a commercial or deployment point of view.”

While technology buyers across companies show a personal preference for smart phones, such as the iphone, enterprise deployment of a smart phone for them is a tricky issue. They need to take care of many aspects such as ROI, compatibility, security before they are absolutely sure that buying this device for their employees would be a wise investment.

Anwar Baghdadi, CIO of CFC said, “I have already registered for an iphone so that I get it as quickly as possible. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is something that is out of this world. The exciting thing is that it is different with a lot of unseen features, is user-friendly and intuitive in nature, provides large ability to store, recollect, utilize; it’s a PDA in a very different form.”

However, he added, “My take on enterprise adoption is slightly different. Firstly, many organizations, especially financial ones, are not very keen on camera phones due to security reasons. This is a cause for concern and a way to mitigate this concern must be found. Secondly, if you compare them to Blackberry, which has a far more rugged and well-covered secure OS, many other smart phones are not at that stage. So many organizations do not clear them from a security perspective. But PDAs are the way forward. So sooner or later they will find adoption.”

Clearly, the hype does not seem to have rubbed on to enterprise technology leaders, who are adopting a wait and watch approach towards the iPhone. One of the reasons could be that many enterprises in India have not yet caught on to the smart phone concept for their employees.

Some however strike a cautiously optimistic note. Satish Pendse, CIO of Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) said, “From an enterprise perspective, iPhone will definitely have a catching point and will be a threat to contenders. But whether it will replace the Blackberry is too early to say. The Blackberry has established itself quite well. If the iPhone delivers what its makers claim, it will surely have an edge. I will prefer a thorough evaluation before taking a decision to implement it at the enterprise level. There’ll certainly be pressure from the user community and when it comes we will look at it.”

Another dampener for the iphone is in the form of software and operating system incompatibility. Shirish Gariba, CIO of Elbee Express for instance would trade his iphone for nothing. He has been using both the RIM’s Blackberry and Apple’s iphone, but his experience with the iphone has been simply brilliant he says. He vouches for its touch screen graphics, voice surfing, great connectivity on Wi-Fi, a fantastic, easy to use interface.
However, he is not that enthusiastic about the iphone from an enterprise deployment perspective. Although he said that the price point is a very attractive proposition, the biggest dampener is that the operating system is different, and that he will have to rewrite stuff to make it compatible for windows 6.0 on NT server.

CIO concerns on security in smart phones are not lost on technology providers. According to Ashok Madanahalli, director, product management, security & mobile connectivity at Nokia, “We are very focused on mobile security. As a vision we see, mobility will play a big role for enterprises as they grow, become more global and more data goes into phones. So somewhere down the line the handheld smart phone will be the only tool that we need for our business. From that perspective, the experience we are gaining in developing mobile security solutions will be utilized very well.”

Apple too should find ways to address these concerns if it has to penetrate the enterprise market.

Related links:

The Wait for the iPhone is Finally Over!

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