The iPhone Reaches Out to the PC

Is the iPhone a serious device for business? Apple  isn’t marketing it that way, but a growing chorus of companies are working to make the device more appealing to business users. The latest is WebEx.

“We are not going so far as to say IT departments should buy iPhones,” Jack Chawla, senior director of project management at WebEx, told “My belief is IT wants to deliver mobile devices like the Blackberry that offer push e-mail, so we’re not solving that issue.”

Which is not to say he doesn’t think the iPhone can be a productive business device. In fact, Chawla said he’s in the process of transitioning personally from his BlackBerry to an iPhone. “If you want to be productive, you’re going to get what you need. And not everyone gets their Blackberry or mobile solution from the IT department.”

WebEx is now looking to extend the iPhone’s capabilities with a version of its PCNow 3 software. A free 30-day trial version is available here.

The conferencing giant, acquired by Cisco  last year, said WebEx PCNow 3 is the first remote access solution to support both PC-to-PC and phone-to-PC access. Through a partnership with mobile technology provider SoonR, it gives iPhone users the ability to access their desktop for search, Outlook contacts, calendar, email and multiple types of documents.

Also, content is optimized for viewing on the iPhone screen. There is no software to download; users simply navigate iPhone’s Safari Web browser to access their desktop.

The iPhone joins a long list of mobile devices supported by PC Now, which Chawla said can run on just about any phone that can run a browser. Once connected remotely to your PC, you can use tools like Google desktop search to quickly find the files (documents, emails, images and contacts) you need to retrieve or view. You can also use the iPhone to forward any of those files to colleagues and friends.

Pricing is based on the number of computers you want to access. For example, PCNow 3 is available for $11.95 per month for access to two PCs, which could be a notebook and home computer. Currently the service is designed for accessing Windows PCs, but support for Apple’s Mac OS X is planned for later this year.

“My personal belief is that people buy the iPhone because it’s so cool,” said Chawla. “We’re not saying this is a game-changing thing, but we have a solution that will help you get your email off of your PC which a lot of people want. Or just to be able to get pictures you want to show someone on the iPhone, that you have stored on your PC, is pretty cool.”

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