Those who have the iPhone will know what I am talking about. Once you have it, you'd never want to use any other phone. I survived the Blackberry sentence for 2 years, its no fun. The iPhone is the best ever, its a lot of fun, and its like having an iPod as well. Buy the docker/player and you have a good sound system while charging your phone as well. The iPhone's strength is also its main weakness. As app downloads are managed exclusively through the iTunes Store, IT managers can't centralise installation and security updates as with other software. Unlike Blackberry or Windows Mobile devices, each phone must be updated by its end user, even if update prompts are pushed to the device. But, the pull factors of iPhone are so great that more and more senior execs are pushing their IT department to cave in.
Gartner: The uber cool iPhone is making inroads into the business market with new enterprise applications making it hard for IT managers to swim against the phone's popularity tide.
It is now deployed or being piloted by more than 70 per cent of Fortune 100 companies, according to Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's chief financial officer.
“We're continuing to see a rapidly growing number of enterprise CIOs who have now added the iPhone to their approved device list. This penetration has doubled since the iPhone 3GS first shipped this past (US) summer,” he said at the company's first quarter results presentation on Jan 25.
Yellowfin's iPhone app for business.
According to Gartner, the iPhone operating system is now the third most popular in the world commanding 17 per cent of the smartphone market, behind Nokia's Symbian with 44.6 per cent and Research in Motion (RIM) with 20 per cent.
Glen Rabie, chief executive of business intelligence software maker Yellowfin, says corporations are surrendering to the iPhone's appeal.
Apple's OS share rose 4.2 per cent in the year to October 2009, behind RIM's 4.9 per cent, at the expense of Symbian and Microsoft's Windows Mobile which lost 5.1 and 3.2 per cent respectively. Google's newcomer Android managed to capture 3.5 per cent market share in its first year.
Much of the rise of Apple's share stems from consumer uptake; nevertheless its use in enterprise environments is rising.
“We've certainly seen a massive uptake of the iPhone by the enterprise. Executives just want it and are telling the IT people to just make it work. There are cases where all executives have iPhones and the rest of the staff have Blackberries. Slowly it filters down,” Rabie says.
Yellowfin counts Telstra, Levi's and government agencies as clients. It recently joined the likes of Salesforce.com in launching an iPhone app to allow access to it server-based business intelligence packages.
“The iPhone has built a mindset to make everything simpler. Each app only does one thing, which is good because people just do what they need to do,” Rabie says.
Apps v Security
The iPhone's strength is also its main weakness. As app downloads are managed exclusively through the iTunes Store, IT managers can't centralise installation and security updates as with other software. Unlike Blackberry or Windows Mobile devices, each phone must be updated by its end user, even if update prompts are pushed to the device.
“In my view that's the only thing that is holding it back,” Rabie says.
At the same time, RIM which has a strong enterprise foothold precisely because of its security and all-in-one infrastructure is not letting the app fever pass it by. It recently launched its own app store App World, allowing Blackberry users to search for and download apps directly from a central website, rather than having to search through software vendors' sites or wait for their IT managers to do it.
Small business no brainer
David Campbell, owner for David Campbell Building in Sydney, has a fleet of seven iPhones which staff use on construction sites. They are trialling a “Tradies App” developed by the company to aid onsite supervisors to compile a daily site diary, document variations and issue sub-contractor agreements and purchase orders on the spot. He hopes the app will be available through iTunes soon, maybe even bringing in some extra revenue.
“We had Blackberries and Treos before, but they don't stack up in the ease of use for the guys,” Campbell says.
While end users and small businesses value user experience more, enterprise IT managers have a different wish list. Anthony Petts, sales and marketing manager, HTC which manufacturers Windows Mobile and Android phones, says they want:
- email exchange functionality
- centralised security
- calendar and contact synchronisation
- keyboard input
- a range of hardware models to suit different staff levels/requirements
“When I ask people why they want an iPhone they say because it's the latest. There's hype, buzz and a notion of status affecting the buying decision, but in the enterprise when they look at security and functionality (other phones) become a real consideration for them,” Petts says.
Gartner predicts it's Android, not iPhone, that will overtake RIM as second biggest smartphone OS in the world by 2012. Windows Mobile will manage to maintain its market share although suffering greater pressure from open source despite the Marketplace app store launch.
However, Petts believes Microsoft will strengthen its grip on the Australian smartphone enterprise market with Windows Mobile 6.5 and HTC's own HD2.
He says the phone combines the finger-sensitive (capacitive) screen that iPhone and Android users prefer with the accuracy of stylus-driven (resistive) screen the enterprise demands.
“We've had very strong enterprise coverage with Windows Mobile predominantly from a security and infrastructure point of view. If companies have Microsoft Exchange set up, there's nothing else they need to do and they'll have all the security that comes with that. No additional investment, no need for another server and they can add Microsoft Sharepoint and Office to it to keep it in the family,” Petts says.
Top smartphone hardware vendors, Asia Pacific (unit sales)
Nokia - 75.3 per cent market share (down from 79.9 per cent in Q1 2009)
Apple - 8.1 per cent (from 3.8 per cent)
HTC - 6 per cent (from 4.6 per cent)
RIM - 3.6 per cent (from 2.9 per cent)
Samsung - 2.9 per cent (from 2.4 per cent)
Source: Gartner, Q3 2009.
p/s photos: Christina Chan Hau Mun