iPhones in the enterprise leaving IT at wit's end

Executives smitten with iPhones are forcing enterprise IT departments to come up with ways to support the mobile devices even though big security and management questions abound.

Slideshow: Products from Interop

IT pros peppered panelists at a standing-room only Interop session titled "The iPhone and the Enterprise: Is this the Future of IT?" with such questions and left without many answers.

One healthcare IT pro said supporting iPhones would be a nightmare given industry data protection regulations and the ability of end users to relatively easily "jailbreak" their iPhones. Another IT pro pointed out that supporting a bunch of native apps on iPhones would seem to run counter to other IT trends, such as the move toward desktop virtualization and centralized applications control.

Panelist J.T. Starzecki, president of application development and consulting company iPhone Zen Masters, acknowledged that IT pros are left with the "dilemma of how to fit iPhones into their current infrastructure" in light of executives adopting iPhones for personal use and then calling on IT to support them in the business.

"IPhone 2.0 made some leaps toward enterprise adoption [with support for Exchange ActiveSync, etc, but it's not where it should be," he said.

One big challenge in supporting iPhones is that it's hard to find an organization that wouldn't also have a handful of other mobile device types to support, said Adam Blum, CEO of Rhomobile, which makes a framework for building native mobile device apps that can work across platforms. Supporting multiple platforms would only add to an IT department's workload, he said. "We'll always have heterogeneity," he said.

While IT shops might not be happy about losing control over end devices stuffed with applications, Blum said there's not much they can do about the shift. He noted that some applications, such as GPS and cameras, must be on the end device. He pointed to the emergence of applications on iPhones and other smartphones in the enterprise as part of the seemingly never-ending back and forth nature of centralized and decentralized computing.

While some IT shops might being feeling forced to support iPhones because of top execs' desires, others might be the supporters themselves. In these cases, the panelists recommended selling higher ups on iPhone support by showing first how it could benefit customers. "The wedge is 'We want to support our customers,'" Starzecki said.

The panelists pointed to some high profile iPhone business apps, such as AAA enabling customers to report their location via the iPhone and Nationwide allowing insurance clients with iPhones to send in claims data, including accident photos.

Among inhibitors to iPhones taking off in the enterprise is the lack of a good iTunes-like distribution channel for enterprise apps, Blum said. He said enterprise app developers can't abide by a system that wouldn't allow them to have more control over when their offerings become available. "This is an area that's ripe for innovation," he said.

Irv Shapiro, CEO of hosted voice application and platform company Ifbyphone, said it will be interesting to see what enterprises truly require from Apple in terms of iPhone security, whether it's the ability to just sandbox applications or more. "Apple should be listening more," he said.

Though he also said it's quite possible that Apple's focus is more on non-enterprise businesses since there are so many of them. "It could be that Apple is deciding to become the dominant player in non-enterprise workers first and then slowly evolve into the enterprise as demand moves that way," he said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags iPhoneenterprise

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Bob Brown

Network World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?