iPhone Gaining Favor Among Business UsersBy Sharon Linsenbach | Print
RIM's BlackBerry remains the dominant smart phone among business users, but improvements to Apple's iPhone are making it rapidly a viable alternative in the smart phone space. Is now the time to start supporting Apple's 3G iPhone?
Apple's iPhone is finally starting to permeate the business community, driven by the release of business-friendly software for the 3G version in July and increasing popularity of the device among younger users.
While Research in Motion still holds the lion’s share of the market for mobile text and voice devices, solution providers should start gearing up to start selling, integrating and supporting the popular Apple smart phone as its market share grows, analysts say.
For now, most businesses' top brass still prefer RIM's BlackBerry to the iPhone. Currently, 65.5 percent of businesses support RIM phones and 22 percent support Windows Mobile devices, while a paltry 10 percent support the iPhone.
For many organizations, especially in a slowing economy, the decision to switch weighs heavily on cost. Adding support for more than one platform is expensive. And for companies that receive discounts for contracting with a specific wireless carrier, a switch to AT&T—the only wireless carrier to offer the iPhone—may not be feasible.
Recent Gartner research praised the iPhone’s improved suite of business applications, but said that security flaws within Apple’s proprietary browser, Safari, were still disconcerting. For businesses with a restrictive Internet usage policy, allowing users access to consumer-focused programs such as iTunes just isn’t in the cards.
These caveats aside, Apple does seem poised to take the business world by storm. Analysts say they expect an increase in the number of iPhone and Windows smart phone subscriptions over the next three years, while RIM’s BlackBerry subscriptions will drop. AT&T earlier this year announced a number of new business plans for the iPhone, designed to lure companies away from other smart phones and devices.
In a recent interview with Channel Insider, Wyse Technology CEO Tarkan Maner foresaw a day in the near future where iPhones will support thin-client applications and supplant laptops for mobile computing.
And Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs said more than 33 percent of Fortune 500 companies participated in Apple's iPhone 2.0 software beta testing, and many SMBs are now allowing users to choose their own smart phone, according to analysts.
This trend may simply be a matter of necessity rather than an indulgence—as the economy tightens, employees must do more, mixing work and play, at which the iPhone excels.
Possibly the best indicator of the iPhone’s business potential is the competition’s response. RIM this week debuts its BlackBerry Storm, which touts a touch interface, better e-mail handling capabilities and a hot-swappable battery. However, the Storm lacks Wi-Fi functionality and includes less memory, sources say.
The lack of RAM in smart phones, such as the iPhone and Storm, are an inhibitor to them becoming a replacement or substitute to laptops, Maner said.
Overall, Gartner research shows the BlackBerry still dominates the U.S. smart phone market, capturing approximately 39 percent, but solution providers should keep in mind that Apple’s share, at about 19 percent and growing, is still a force to be reckoned with.