What do Snow Leopard, iPhone 3G S & its OS mean for business?

What do Snow Leopard, iPhone 3G S & its OS mean for business?

Apple's taking steps that could gain it traction in the enterprise

iPhone inching closer to enterprise needs

I could spend days writing about all the new iPhone features, consumer and business-oriented alike. Some of the most important ones will be useful in both camps. First and foremost is the cut/copy/paste feature, which users have been wanting to see on the iPhone since its introduction in 2007. Big need, big feature.

But hardware encryption is, from an IT perspective, a far more important tool. One of the biggest qualms IT shops have had about allowing the iPhone into any business with confidential resources is the lack of encryption. That's understandably a particular concern for financial, legal and medical firms. Apple hasn't released much information about how its iPhone encryption will work, but the decision to finally tackle the problem is reason enough to cheer -- and reason enough for businesses that have been in the anti-iPhone camp to at least think about reconsidering past iPhone avoidance. Most will likely need more information about the encryption technology before making a decision.

Apple has also referenced an updated iPhone Configuration Utility and the ability to serve configuration profiles via Snow Leopard Server. Again, there are few details at this point. and given that this was included in passing as a reference point, we may not see actual updates as part of the iPhone OS 3 release next week. But at least it indicates that Apple is taking these needs more seriously. Whatever the details, I'm hopeful Apple will move beyond just basic configuration and security (some of which are already available) to mass deployment, inclusion of the new parental controls in iPhone OS 3 and over-the-air enforcement and distribution.

I also want the ability to integrate the Find-My-iPhone feature for business. Find-My-iPhone allows an iPhone user to log into a MobileMe account and track down a lost or stolen iPhone -- as long as the feature has been activated by the user on the phone itself. It also allows an iPhone owner to send a text message to the device that can be read by whomever has it.

For now, it looks like the service will be tied to MobileMe (and by itself is worth the cost of a MobileMe subscription). But if Apple can offer MobileMe bulk subscriptions for business, this could be a great tool since it also allows you to wipe the phone clean of data in case it has been stolen. This is also a must for smaller businesses and self-employed professionals who use an iPhone, and helps make the iPhone more palatable for handling confidential information for anyone not in an enterprise environment.

My biggest concern about the iPhone G3 S had less to do with Apple than with AT&T, which has yet to embrace tethering -- which truly stands to position the iPhone as an even bigger knock-out device for professionals on the go. Tethering allows you to use the iPhone -- and AT&T's network -- for an Internet connection. AT&T keeps saying it will support the feature -- eventually. Eventually is a long time away.

What Apple still needs to get right

Given the announcements made Monday at WWDC, Apple really seems to be listening to business customers, particularly small business, which probably represents one of its best enterprise markets.

That said, I -- and just about any CIO who's dealt with Apple -- would still like to see the company publish a longer road map for its enterprise technology. The company understandably likes the wow factor and certainly an event like Monday's show works to generate buzz. But large businesses need more than buzz; they need to be able to plan for the future, and surprises aren't always a good thing.

WWDC is typically the best place for IT professionals, as well as developers, to find out where the company is headed and to get a lot of hands-on time learning about Mac systems administration. Of course, all of that knowledge comes under non-disclosure agreements that keep detailed information under wraps.

Unfortunately, WWDC isn't always accessible, especially for educational IT types who may still be wrapping up the school in early June. Given the conference's popularity -- it's been sold out now two years running -- Apple should either expand the conference or offer multiple smaller events to support the needs of a growing developer and sysadmin base.

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Tags Applesnow leopardiphone 3.0wwdciPhone 3G S

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