Apple need only look at its recent past to find a business justification for working with its long-time rival. "What really made the iPod take off was when they made it compatible with Windows. So if they made the iPhone compatible with Windows e-mail, meaning Outlook, that would really make sales take off," said Shaw Wu, an analyst with American Technology Research.
E-mail is not the only stumbling block to wider corporate adoption of the iPhone.
Analysts said some potential business buyers are holding out for a model that runs on newer cellular technology that enables faster Web connections. AT&T, the exclusive U.S. carrier, said last week it expects that kind of iPhone in 2008. Moreover, while surveys show more than 90 percent of iPhone users are happy with the device, several executives have gone on the record, including at the Reuters Media Summit in New York last week, as saying it is too vexing to tap out long e-mails on the touch screen.
After a launch late in June, Apple sold 1.12 million iPhones in its fiscal fourth quarter ended in September. RIM shipped more than 3 million Blackberries in its second fiscal quarter ended September 1. Most iPhone sales were to non-corporate users, but Apple says the device is great for business. "We've said many times that we're providing a solution in iPhone that many businesses love," Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said in October. "Clearly, there are some businesses buying them and very much enjoying them."
An Apple spokeswoman declined to discuss future iPhone plans, saying only that the company was happy so many software makers were interested.
Analysts who follow the company speculate it may eventually offer a model with a keyboard, or use technology that mimics the sensation of pressing real keys by making the phone vibrate for a split-second when the screen is touched. "If they get those pieces together," Wu said, "it would make iPhone a much stronger competitor."