Apple: An IPhony to the Channel

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


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Frank Ohlhorst: The iPhone, melding Web, e-mail and phone into a single device, should have been a godsend for the channel. What went wrong?

It's no secret that Apple has evolved into a consumer electronics company.

The company's evolution over to consumer products started with the letter I: the iPod, iMac, iPhone and so on. That evolution has come at the expense of channel partners, specifically by eliminating business specific products.

Although it's getting harder and harder, several solution providers are still trying to eek out a living selling and supporting Apple's products.

Take for example the iPhone, a product that could have become the ultimate unified communications device. The products ability to meld the Web, e-mail and phone seamlessly into a single device should have been a godsend to communications integrators. But Apple's marketing choices made sure that it was near impossible for channel partners to build a business model around the product and Apple's latest moves puts the final nail into the coffin of a channel friendly iPhone.

The product's initial limitations, such as it being a closed device, having no provisions for corporate e-mail, no instant messaging capabilities and being locked to a singled service provider, were almost an impossible hurdle to overcome for most integrators, yet some found ways around those problems.

With the company's announcement and release of a firmware update, Apple has made it clear that they want control of the iPhone. The update aims to disable the device if the unit has been unlocked for use on Networks other than AT&T and eliminates the use of third-party applications. So much for flexibility and consumer choice, and so much for the ability for solution providers to customize the iPhone for their customers.

This comes from a company that built their operating system on an open-source derivative of Unix and harangued Microsoft for years over the company's monopolistic practices.

The real irony here is that Apple has not learned from the mistakes of others; decades ago, Lotus tried to sue competitors on look and feel of products and Microsoft engineers used to walk around with t-shirts stating "DOS isn't done, until Lotus won't run". We all know where that got those companies.

The questions that beg to be answered here are: Did Apple solely design this update to eliminate flexibility with the device? or Is there some other value to this update and the flexibility problems are a byproduct? Regardless of the answers, perhaps the time has come for the channel to turn its back on Apple.

The funny thing about all of this is if Apple had turned to the channel and sold the iPhone with some flexibility and enterprise integration capabilities, the company would have made a BlackBerry/Treo killer that would have benefited everyone involved: solution providers, wireless carries, consumers and business users.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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