The iPhone Factor

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Apple's iPhone is not the only Apple technology that is gaining traction in business. Apple's Mac notebooks, desktops and server sales to both small business and enterprise work groups have grown. And more third-party technology that supports the Mac platform is now available too -- from servers to storage to virtualization to e-mail.

Another big driver comes from the consumer side. While Apple’s iPhone made up only 1 percent of 28.5 million "corporate-liable" smartphone shipments in 2008, according to IDC’s May 2008 market forecast, that number is growing at a rapid pace as more C-level executives bring their iPhones to work and more business applications become available for the iPhone.

"We do expect iPhone to grow quickly in corporate-liable enterprise shipments, and even more quickly and to a larger degree in individual-liable shipments—those purchased by individuals and used in the enterprise or SMB," says Sean Ryan, research analyst for mobile enterprise software at IDC.  IDC plans to release updated enterprise numbers for iPhones next month.

Apple hasn’t made it easy for corporate IT departments to standardize on the iPhone. Apple and carrier AT&T are the only entities that can carry out patches and upgrades on the iPhone, so enterprises that keep a tight hold on management of their fleets of devices may find the lack of control to be a deal breaker.

Because of that, the enterprise applications that have found the most success on the iPhone platform are so-called cloud-based applications, where all the work is done on some distant server and not on the client device, says Ryan. Salesforce.com and Sybase both have strong plays there.

The iPhone’s success in enterprises has largely been in spite of Apple's policies, Ryan agrees.

He notes that market leader Research In Motion’s BlackBerry was built for the enterprise, while Apple’s iPhone was built for individuals. However, if Apple and its partners can make the advances that corporate IT wants in device management and security support, corporate-liable adoption of iPhones will grow even faster, he says.

"Smartphones are such personal devices," says Ryan. "People want to use them for both work and play."

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com