Apple may announce full Exchange support for the iPhone this week, an analyst is tipping. And if he's right, it could see the iPhone become more acceptable to business users.
The computer company has promised "some exciting new enterprise features" will be unveiled at this week’s iPhone SDK event.
Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with JupiterResearch, has no inside information on that remark, but had surmised in his blog that it would be "important news for the platform" if it were related to Exchange, the market-leading mail server from rival Microsoft.
"If…Apple announces it has licensed the ActiveSync/Exchange protocol from Microsoft, presumably this would mean that the iPhone would at some point sync directly with Exchange," he wrote. "This would be a nice win for Apple and will likely lead to a greater adoption of the iPhone in corporate settings."
Currently, iPhone users can only pull mail from Exchange servers using the IMAP protocol, and sync contacts and calendar with Outlook at the desktop via USB and iTunes.
More importantly, corporate IT administrators cannot centrally manage iPhones, as they can, for instance, Blackberry and Windows Mobile devices.
Gartenberg noted that in his blog. "Going through a tethered connection for calendar and contacts and using IMAP for email is a step backward for anyone using a BlackBerry (with a BlackBerry Exchange server) or a Windows Mobile device."
Talk of Apple licensing the ActiveSync protocol from Microsoft goes back to before the iPhone's launch in June 2007, although some analysts dismissed the iPhone as a business tool even then. Analyst Gartner advised enterprises to keep the iPhone out of their organisations, citing lax security, among other things.
Gartenberg, however, believes the climate may have changed, noting persistent calls for Exchange support on the iPhone. "This might be the time for them to do it," he wrote.
The current corporate smartphone of choice is the Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry. According to a recent survey by researchers ChangeWave, the BlackBerry holds a 73 percent share of the corporate smartphone market, while the iPhone has only 5 percent.
However iPhones owners thought better of their handset than all other smartphone users. "Nearly three-in-five (59 percent) of Apple's business customers say their company is 'very satisfied' with the iPhone," the ChangeWave survey reported.
Fewer say the same about RIM's smartphone, and only 47 percent said they were very satisfied with the BlackBerry.