Making the iPhone a killer business device

The device has potential, but Apple needs to meet corporate needs

6. Develop tools to create and edit Office documents

Perhaps the biggest business feature needed on the iPhone is the ability to create and edit Office documents.

Since its early releases, the iPhone has allowed users to download e-mail attachments that contain common file formats like Word and Excel and view the contents. The list of supported file types has grown dramatically and now includes all major Office formats as well as Apple's own iWork formats.

The problem is that the iPhone provides no way to edit these files. This is one of the biggest advantages other smart phones offer over the iPhone. BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Palm devices all allow basic document editing, either as a built-in feature or through third-party applications.

While not all editing features are needed, being able to make basic changes to a document on the iPhone is a sorely needed improvement. If Apple itself can't devise a solution, it should encourage third-party app makers to develop one.

7. Allow file storage/management on the iPhone itself

Perhaps one reason document editing isn't available on the iPhone is that it would require the device to support some kind of file storage and management. Apple hasn't offered up any such capabilities and, in fact, seems to have worked to prevent any way to directly store or manipulate files on the iPhone.

There is, of course, room to add applications to extend the iPhone's capabilities, with the amount of space depending on which model you pick -- the 8GB version or the 16GB iteration. But all that room does nothing for file storage if there's no file storage architecture on the phone.

This is a problem for business users. There is no way to use the iPhone as a hard drive to store or move files from one computer to another -- something iPods have been able to do since they were introduced. More importantly, it means developers cannot allow different applications to access each other's documents. While it's understandable from a security perspective why Apple might adopt this approach, there's no practical reason it couldn't create a single locked-down directory on the iPhone for user documents.

A number of third-party applications, including Air Sharing, DataCase and FileMagnet, already allow users to transfer files to an iPhone using Wi-Fi networking, which proves it can be done without compromising the device. The problem is that many of these options result in what is essentially read-only access, limiting their practical use.

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Ryan Faas

Ryan Faas

Computerworld
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