Forrester: Top 4 reasons IT should support the iPhone

April 13, 2009, 8:44 PM UTC

In the early days of Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone, when corporate IT managers were taking their first close look at the device (and wondering whether it would find a place in their organizations alongside Research in Motion’s (RIMM) BlackBerry), few documents were more influential than the Forrester Research report entitled “The iPhone Is Not Meant For Enterprises.”

Released on Dec. 12, 2007, the six-page, $749 report was better known by its subtitle: “The Top 10 Reasons Why We Recommend That IT Not Support It.”

It was a devastating critique that savaged the iPhone from its virtual keyboard to its non-removable battery, and it triggered flame wars all across the Internet. (The comment stream on Apple 2.0’s summary, available here, is 138 messages long.)

Which makes it all the more notable that Forrester’s second look at the device,  published last week, is so laudatory.

This one is called “Making iPhone Work In The Enterprise: Early Lessons Learned,” and it reports on the experience of IT managers at three firms that managed to fit the iPhone into their operations: Kraft Foods (KFT), Oracle (ORCL) and Amylin Pharmaceuticals (AMLN).

This report, too, is dominated by lists, starting with the top four reasons iPhones are good for business:

  1. Employees like them. “In this era of Technology Populism, where consumer IT is often better than enterprise IT, it sometimes just makes sense to give employees the freedom to choose the tools they want.”
  2. They make mobile collaboration easier. “As anybody with experience on both iPhones and BlackBerry will tell you, the Internet feels natural on an iPhone and a like a chore on a BlackBerry.”
  3. iPhone users need less hand-holding. “All three firms have set up wikis so that employees can support each other. ‘Our early adopters sometimes teach things we’d rather our iPhone users not know, but overall they provide better support than we can,’ said one person we interviewed.”
  4. They can be cheaper in the long run. “In at least one case, an iPhone adopter found that the data plans for previous mobile devices were more expensive than the consumer plans AT&T is offering for iPhones. This company was able to reset its baseline plan pricing 30% lower for all phones because it supported iPhone.”

This document represents a remarkable turnaround for Forrester (FORR), an organization that carries a lot of sway with IT managers and has often been hostile to Apple products.

Not this time. The introduction to the report starts like this:

“Apple is redefining its third industry: first the computer industry, next the music industry, and now the mobile industry. … The iPhone’s intuitive interface, superior browsing experience, and rapidly evolving developer tool kit make content-centric applications far more appealing on an iPhone than on a BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device. While BlackBerry is still the email and calendaring winner, iPhone devotees do make the shift to typing on glass.”

Of course there are caveats, and these too come in lists.

There are the top four iPhone “challenges,” including the dearth of management tools, the lack of full support for VPN and the “usual litany” of “annoying” early-generation glitches (e.g., lack of cut-and-paste and click-to-call).

And there are seven “recommendations” (launch in stages, negotiate with AT&T (T), let employees buy their iPhones at the Apple Store, etc.).

And finally, there are seven things that should be better when iPhone OS 3.o arrives, including (finally) cut-and-paste, encrypted back-up and “new policy capabilities,” such as the ability to disable the iPhone’s camera to discourage corporate espionage.

The full report is 13 pages long and can be downloaded here for $749.

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