Forrester Research *gasp* recommends the iPhone for enterprise

April 14, 2009 12:04 AM EDT

Forrester Research's Ted Schadler put out a report today called “Making iPhone Work In The Enterprise: Early Lessons Learned,” which chronicles three companies' experiences with integrating the iPhone into their enterprise.  Kraft Foods, Oracle and Amylin Pharmaceuticals all took the plunge, and their experiences were overwhelmingly good.

So good, in fact, that Forrester opened up the report with the following:

The iPhone’s intuitive interface, superior browsing experience, and rapidly evolving developer tool kit make content-centric applications far more appealing on an iPhone than on a BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device. While BlackBerry is still the email and calendaring winner, iPhone devotees do make the shift to typing on glass.”

They follow with a list of reasons that IT management should consider the iPhone. 

  1. Employees like them. “In this era of Technology Populism, where consumer IT is often better than enterprise IT, it sometimes just makes sense to give employees the freedom to choose the tools they want.”
  2. They make mobile collaboration easier. “As anybody with experience on both iPhones and BlackBerry will tell you, the Internet feels natural on an iPhone and a like a chore on a BlackBerry.”
  3. iPhone users need less hand-holding. “All three firms have set up wikis so that employees can support each other. ‘Our early adopters sometimes teach things we’d rather our iPhone users not know, but overall they provide better support than we can,’ said one person we interviewed.”
  4. They can be cheaper in the long run. “In at least one case, an iPhone adopter found that the data plans for previous mobile devices were more expensive than the consumer plans AT&T is offering for iPhones. This company was able to reset its baseline plan pricing 30% lower for all phones because it supported iPhone.”

These are all solid reasons but the most important advantage iPhone users have over Blackberries and others is they have a full web browser.  This cannot be overstated.  In fact, in June of 2007, I refuted claims by Gartner, 451 Group and Forrester that the iPhone would flop in the Enterprise.

They didn't consider that the iPhone alowed employees to carry a full broswer with them wherever they went.

Quoting a 2007 myself:

The reality is that no matter how hard IT administrators try, the iPhone will be snapped up by their employees -- and not just the average Joes either. The device is a status symbol that will likely be snapped up by business leaders as the digital technorati. Try telling your CEO the iPhone doesn't play well with your IT systems.

Dulaney and other researchers notwithstanding, this device can be good for companies because of the business needs of smart phone users:

  • It is an iPhone, after all, with an emphasis on phone.
  • It offers e-mail -- currently the most popular means of business communications.
  • There's an address/phone book for quick access to contacts.
  • It offers SMS, a quick way to contact other mobile phone users, and voice mail -- both useful to road warriors.
  • There's a real Web browser -- by far the most underpowered and underappreciated part of a mobile phone.
  • And it contains a slew of corporate-worthy apps, including a calendar, access to maps, spreadsheets and a document reader.

All of these things are important -- and all can be done to a greater or lesser extent on most business-focused PDA phones. But in the business world, the mobile Web browser is the key to the future of business applications, and it is a becoming a platform unto itself. One thing that Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs made abundantly clear at last week's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is that the iPhone would include a full browser. The Symbian and Linux platforms' best browser is Opera Mini -- which isn't that bad -- but it by no means constitutes a full browser. Windows Mobile's browser isn't bad either, but it also falls well short of Internet Explorer 7. Additionally, the iPhone browser has a lot of zooming and panning tricks that make it more usable on the relatively small screen. In that crucial area, advantage: iPhone.

Why is the browser crucial? Because most new business applications are being built around it. AJAX and other browser technology innovations over the past few years have turned the browser into a veritable platform. Sure, a lot of legacy applications still require browserless, platform-specific client applications. But those days are numbered.

Some other notable stats from the Forrester report:

- Todd Stewart, IT senior director at Amylin Pharmaceutical, says the iPhone has become the company's "enterprise netbook," and "it is easier to support than other mobile platforms".

- Dave Diedrich, vice president of information systems at Kraft, said that almost half of Kraft's 100,00 employees have the iPhone and they are ordering 400 each month.

- Oracle's IT Vice President Campbell Webb says that they have about 4,000 employees using the iPhone globally

- Problems cited were Exchange and VPN  integration and lack of management tools.

Schadler concluded, "Apple is redefining its third industry: first the computer industry, next the music industry, and now the mobile industry. With iPhone, Apple has breached walled gardens that have long slowed innovation and kept advanced applications from reaching the US mobile market."

Better late than never.