iPhone not business-ready? CRM released for iPhone anyway

CRM vendor developing apps for iPhone

Warnings from analysts that the iPhone is not suitable for businesses are not stopping one CRM vendor from porting its product onto Apple's popular consumer device.

Etelos made its CRM platform available via the iPhone's Safari Web browser this week, arguing that sales professionals will buy the iPhone themselves and use it at work, even if their employers don't supply the devices. Etelos says it also is close to launching a tool kit that will let Web developers create applications for the iPhone easily and sell them through the Etelos store.

"Basically, we've got a real [Web] browser on a mobile device. Users in the enterprise have been craving an easier way to develop and deploy their own applications to mobile scenarios," says Etelos CEO Danny Kolke.

Numerous analysts and CIOs have said the iPhone should be kept out of enterprise networks because it lacks security features and Apple has not yet made it compatible with business e-mail programs such as Microsoft Exchange.

Kolke acknowledges that businesses are unlikely to buy iPhones for employees, given that it costs as much as US$599. But he figures users will buy the devices themselves and enjoy them so much they'll want to use them at work.

Etelos' CRM platform previously was available for the BlackBerry, but that device's limited browser made it difficult for salespeople to launch new projects and view the schedules of colleagues, Kolke says.

"This [iPhone] version is full featured," he says. "It pretty much has all the same features as our browser version." Etelos CRM for iPhone uses Asynchronous JavaScript + XML techniques for creating interactive Web pages, and includes note-taking, appointment setting, contact management, sales and project management, and group messaging and reporting.

Etelos made its CRM program available in Google Apps in April. Converting the product to the iPhone was not difficult because the screen dimensions are similar to those of Google's Desktop Gadgets, which fill only a portion of a computer monitor, Kolke says.

Etelos CRM for iPhone is available at no additional cost with several versions of the vendor's CRM product, available both as software as a service and for in-house deployments. The software-as-a-service editions cost US$12 to US$35 per user, per month. A server-side software version goes for a flat rate starting at US$2,500.

Any iPhone owner can try out the product for 24 hours at the Etelos iPhone Web site.

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