How The iPhone Stacks Up

The iPhone is coming—and CIOs should start getting ready.

Apple’s new iPhone, to be available June 29, is one of the most anticipated communications devices to come on the market in some time. Already, 19 million Americans are said to be interested in the multifunction handheld device, according to M:Metrics, a mobile market research company. And a lot of those people are sure to start using the device—which is a combination phone, Internet access device, and iPod—during business and, perhaps, for business.

And, as has happened so many times in the past when executives and other prized professionals (such as star salespeople) start doing work with devices originally designed for consumers, it’s not long before IT departments get the call to distribute—and then support—them.

Yet analysts such as Gartner’s Ken Dulaney and Forrester Research’s Charles Golvin say companies thinking about deploying iPhones to their staffs should think twice. “It’s not designed to be an enterprise tool,” Golvin says. (Apple, which wouldn’t comment for this article, has kept its marketing to date focused solely on the iPhone’s consumer applications.)

There are several factors that limit the iPhone for business use. First, Apple has no real third-party development plans for the phone. Unlike other mobile devices that allow users to download applications right to the device, the iPhone will rely solely on web-based programs users will access over the Internet. And as anyone who’s tried to surf the web from their mobile phone knows, web-based applications can be clunky, slow and difficult to use.

In addition, the phone has no removable battery, no keypad and no tactile keypad buttons, which means that using the iPhone will require a user’s complete attention when using it. And, though Apple has put in a request to Microsoft for direct access to Exchange servers, for now the iPhone will not support business messaging tools—users will have to connect to corporate mail systems over the Internet.

Of course, that doesn’t mean scores of business users—particularly C-level professionals—won’t buy it. “There will be many executives who will want this device,” Golvin says. “People will come bearing gifts to encourage IT to help them make the iPhone work for them.”

And that means CIOs should probably get to know the iPhone.

For starters, here’s a slideshow of how the iPhone stacks up against other multifunction, handheld tools, on the market now or expected to be released shortly.

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