New iPhone: Cool corporate tool

By Scott Moritz

With Apple chief Steve Jobs set to lift the curtain on the next-generation iPhone Monday, the new fun-loving iPhone wants to be all business for any hard-charging gadget shoppers looking for a BlackBerry alternative.

The problem Apple faces is that BlackBerry maker Research in Motion is a tough player to dislodge.

But Apple is game. The company’s version 2.0 iPhone software will feature a suite of business applications aimed directly at the BlackBerry. For starters, the new iPhone will support Microsoft Exchange allowing office e-mail and syncing with contact lists and calendars. And it promises security – the iPhone has Cisco’s VPN technology among others and it has the important remote wipe function that allows IT managers to erase all the company info on any device.

The corporate e-mail market is the top shelf of the smartphone industry and it’s also one of the hardest to crack. It took RIM’s nearly a decade to work its way inside the networks of more than 40,000 big companies. RIM’s network and enterprise servers deliver e-mail to BlackBerries often faster than the same message hits the desktop inbox.

BlackBerry user loyalty is legendary for reasons often go beyond just the utility of fast mobile e-mail. And just as RIM won the hearts of subscribers it also won the minds of office network managers by handing them security controls and simple activation processes that lightened their administrative load.

So how does the iPhone get behind the so-called firewall?

“The IT team certainly isn’t going to be the ones asking for it,” says Mark Seery former IT manager turned Ovum analyst. “These are high end devices naturally purchased by high-end users, obviously it will be the users that bring the tech in to enterprises,” says Seery.

Among the most hotly anticipated features on the new iPhone says Lehman analyst Ben Reitzes in a research note Thursday, is not just corporate e-mail, but what Apple can do with it.

No.7 on Reitzes list of anticipated features coming woolith the new iPhone: “True push e-mail for business, embracing Microsoft Exchange but perhaps incorporating even more messaging capabilities,” says Reitzes referring to the speculation that Apple may be working on video messaging, giving users the ability to send short clips to each other. Think YouTube, delivered.

Hard to say what immediate business value that would add, but if the boss decides she likes it, the IT staff might have to make it happen.

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