Gartner has upgraded its assessment of the iPhone based on the business-focused improvements in the 2.0 version to be launched in June, and predicted IT departments will get a flood of requests for iPhone support from users.
With iPhone 2.0, "Apple corrects the basic omissions of the first iPhone release, noted by Gartner early on, and becomes attractive to enterprises," the analyst firm said in a research note.
Still, Gartner analysts urged caution to IT managers who might be forced by hordes of users to support the device. "Be cautious about generic access to back-end systems via VPN and the untested security model of a product that is new to market," the report said.
Principal author Ken Dulaney said the improvements in the upcoming version "will open a huge volume of business users" for Apple. Still, he said the iPhone won't be ready for broad application development because IT shops have little experience with the iPhone and with the modified OS X that it runs on, he said.
IT managers' comfort level over iPhone support will depend on Apple's response to security concerns that Gartner analysts and others have raised, as well as what kinds of third-party security products are produced based on the iPhone software development kit (SDK) between now and the June release, Dulaney added.
In the report, Gartner briefly mentioned a range of ways IT shops can prepare for iPhone development and support, including hiring developers familiar with mobile OS X and even acquiring Macintosh computers and training for those developers.
The 2.0 firmware allows an enterprise to develop local code and applications, which bring the iPhone "to a limited degree" to match up to its main smart phone competitors, such as Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry, and models of the Windows Mobile and Symbian Series 60, the Gartner report said.
Gartner noted that the 2.0 support for Exchange ActiveSync will affect more than 70 percent of the enterprise email market, but said it expects that IBM will have a Lotus Notes Traveler version to use with iPhone in the next six months. IBM has not commented on that possibility, however.
The report also noted that while Cisco's IPSec VPN capability in 2.0 is a plus, the IPSec VPNs from competitors will connect with only basic interoperabiity and without value-added features.
One potential danger for large companies is that the proposed AppStore for application distribution to the device and Apple's iTunes music store "will not sit well with enterprises" because of their consumer focus and because both will be difficult for IT to disconnect from the iPhone, Gartner noted. The report said that Apple plans to adapt iTunes and AppStore to enterprise needs, "possibly eliminating them".
In its report, Gartner raised the iPhone one rung on its three-tier system of support for mobile devices. The device has moved up from "concierge" support to "appliance" support, which means it can be used for email, voice and browsing as well as third party software within a restricted group of applications. An appliance level of support means the iPhone meets requirements now being met by the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian Series 60.