Apple's iPhone - not for business

The iPhone brings a new operating system to the smartphone market. But is it going to be a machine to work with?


It would seem tantamount to an act of treason not to weigh in on Apple’s iPhone announcement, made amid much fanfare last week at the Macworld show in San Francisco.

Apple claims to have “reinvented the phone” with its super-slim, button-less, multifunction device that sports a 3.5 inch touchscreen. The iPhone is scheduled to ship in June in the US and next year in Europe - by which time it might carry a different moniker, depending on how Apple’s trademark dispute with Cisco over the “iPhone” name is resolved [Of course it will be an iPhone. Apple needs that brand, and Cisco is just holding out for more money - Editor].

The pricey smartphone - $499 or $599, depending on storage volume - runs the Mac OS X operating system and supports Wi-Fi and Cingular EDGE mobile WAN connections.

Where are the business functions?

This is all well and good. But for Apple to assert that it has reinvented the phone seems a bit of a misrepresentation. Rather, Apple seems to have last week marked its own entry into the mobile phone market. And it did so with a new form factor for the iPod that happens to also support Web browsing and traditional GSM cellular phone calls. Now the iPod can reach more buyers through a new channel for Apple: the mobile network operator Cingular.

From that perspective, the iPhone doesn’t seem to have much enterprise impact. Apple is adding a new operating system to the mobile market, it’s true. But what are the development opportunities with it? Can you load your own client software on it, such as an IP VPN client? What about any integration with enterprise messaging systems and corporate IP PBXs or plans for fixed-mobile convergence capabilities (uninterrupted roaming between Wi-Fi, cellular, and landline networks)?

These are things businesses care about, and we just don’t have any information about them yet.

Throttled by EDGE bandwidth

Meanwhile, EDGE-only connectivity will severely limit data (and video) usage. The iPod as a video device is going to come up short attempting to support full-length movies over EDGE’s approximately 230 kbit/s connection speeds. Presumably, the iPhone will gain additional connectivity once HSDPA and other 3G and 4G technologies, such as mobile WiMax, become widely deployed in cellular networks. But we can only speculate about that at this juncture.

Initially, the Wi-Fi connections, not the EDGE support, will be most useful to the data- and video-centric crowd. Meanwhile, many other smartphones support Wi-Fi connections and GSM calling.

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