The iPhone is making progress in the enterprise, but is poised to make substantial gains in the near future, according to a research note released this week.
There is still much debate over how well the iPhone fits in wing tips, but one thing is clear: the handset is arriving at the office and isn’t clocking out anytime soon.
“There is growing evidence that the iPhone is making inroads into the enterprise. Although Apple has a relatively small position today, we expect it to gain considerable share in the enterprise over the next several years,” said Chris Whitmore, the Deutsche Bank analyst and author of the Enterprise Edge research note.
He estimates that Apple will ship 2 million iPhones to corporate accounts this year, either purchased by internal IT staff or through formal reimbursement policies. That 2 million gives Apple about 7 percent of the enterprise smartphone market, up from 2 percent in 2008.
Research In Motion, (NASDAQ: RIMM) has 60 percent, according to Whitmore, while Microsoft’s Windows Mobile phones check in with 20 percent enterprise marketshare.
However, he sees the exploding iPhone app sector as a sign of good things to come Apple’s way.
The incumbents (RIMM and Windows) are years behind Apple and appear to be losing ground in developer support/application development,” said Whitmore. “Consequently, we believe Apple should enjoy substantial share gains among enterprise users over the ensuing years.”
When the iPhone launched two years ago, IT snubbed the device, due to its lack of data security and encryption functionality and failure to support native push e-mail and calendar syncing, among other issues, but now all that’s changing, said Whitmore.
The news of the iPhone currying favor with IT comes at a time when the iPhone OS has seen several upgrades aimed, in part, at strengthening business features, but Whitmore cites user satisfaction, design and enterprise iPhone apps as key factors in warming up business relations.
In particular, he references a J.D.Power study showing the iPhone topped RIM in both the consumer and business categories.
“We believe the iPhone’s superior user interface, integrated functionality (phone, music, browser etc) and its growing, robust Application catalog will continue to support high satisfaction ratings going forward and draw new users to the iPhone platform,” said Whitmore.
Thousands of iPhone enterprise apps
He also disagrees with the premise that business smartphones require a physical keyboard. Finally, he estimates that 6,000 of the 100,000 iPhone apps available, are “enterprise-specific” and are “accelerating utility of the platform.”
As more reports surface suggesting similar trends, the mobile management industry is reacting by rolling out new software services that support not only the iPhone, but other newcomers to the enterprise as well, such as the Palm Pre and Android handsets.
BoxTone, Zenprise, Good Technology and Sybase have all recently expanded their services to address the increasingly fragmented mobile landscape IT staff face by supporting new mobile handsets and operating systems.
Most recently, Sybase extended its iPhone mobile management services to include secure device management and support for synchronization between iPhones and Sybase ASE, SQL Anywhere, Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, and MySQL databases.
“While Apple has made significant progress in making the latest version of iPhone enterprise-ready, there are still a number of challenges in provisioning, management, security and application enablement,” Jack Gold, analyst and president of J.Gold Associates, said in a statement.
“To achieve true enterprise-class capability, companies should deploy a comprehensive, open, third-party mobility platform capable of filling these gaps. Solutions like Sybase’s mobility platform not only support companies looking to proactively deploy iPhones but also to respond to the rapidly growing population of information workers bringing personally-owned smartphones into the enterprise.”