Gartner: iPhone inches towards the enterprise

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Gartner: iPhone inches towards the enterprise

But Android not safe for business or classified use.

Apple's iPhone 4 operating system brought the electronics maker a step closer to finding a toehold in Australian businesses, a leading wireless analyst thinks.

After comparing the enterprise smarts of three of the world's most popular smartphone platforms [see video interview  below], Gartner analyst Robin Simpson said RIM's Blackberry was still the "gold standard" for enterprise security but that the iPhone was fast becoming "good enough" for white-collar roles.

But smartphones based on the open source Android operating system lacked the features for use in business.

Simpson said there was a "fair bit of pressure on enterprise IT departments to support devices like the iPhone and the HTC Desire" due to their superior web browsing over more secure platforms such as RIM's Blackberry.

But that doesn't amount to these devices being ready for the corporate network.

Security

Simpson said Blackberry has a "very fine degree of control over functions of the phone, managing it in the field and looking after the security and password policies".

Gartner did not recommend the iPhone prior to the release of the 3GS, due to inadequate encryption.

But since the introduction of always-on encryption and Exchange ActiveSync, Simpson felt the iPhone represented "good-enough security for many kinds of white-collar jobs in the enterprise".

"The models since the iPhone 3GS have hardware encryption and that's always turned on," he said. "And now there is an additional level of security available for iPhone 4, which ties in user's password with encryption [that] by default is just turned on."

It was a vast improvement but "nowhere near the granularity of control you get with Blackberry".

He was not convinced Android was ready for the enterprise: "There is not a lot that is built into the phone for enterprise security and its one of the concerns we have about most of the Android-based phones. They really don't do enough."

He said that even if they offer Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync to the mail server, this often was not with the full range of security options.

"So it's not something we would normally recommend for the enterprise today."

He also pointed to the lack of encryption in Android handsets.

"You would have to add third-party products to get encryption and to turn it on."

Video: DLA Phillips Fox discuss the rollout of iPhones across their legal firm.

Read on for more on management tools and fleet deals for the Blackberry, iPhone and Android platforms.

Management tools

Simpson said Blackberry again has the most extensive fleet management capabilities through Blackberry Enterprise Server, but noted that such tools were limited to its platform.

"If you want to manage other platforms - Windows Mobile, iPhones, Android, there are no capabilities built into the Blackberry Enterprise Server," he said.

The basics in Exchange ActiveSync were "good enough for some enterprises" but not for those protecting communications from senior executives.

"For general white-collar workers, productivity workers, it's usually enough," he said.

Android was "again completely lacking in terms of tools supplied with the device".

For organisations that want control over a wider variety of mobile devices, Simpson recommended MobileIron, ZenPrise and  FancyFon.

"If you want to manage a range of different platforms - not just Blackberry, not just iPhone, then those specialised vendors have some great capabilities and give you a fairly good degree of management control" he said.

Should an enterprise want to throw custom application development into the mix as well as device management and control, he recommended the SAP's Sybase Afaria and Good Technology.

"If you're just doing enterprise email and calendar and web browsing, usually it's not necessary than to go much further than the basic capabilities you get with Exchange ActiveSync," he said.

"But if you are starting to access enterprise data or storing enterprise data or developing enterprise applications on the phone, you usually need to go a bit further."

A caveat

But Simpson said that users should be educated when considering management tools.

"The simple rule is, if you don't own it you don't control it," he said.

"Some of these tools do allow you to assert a degree of control over employee owned phones. The downside is that the employee has to accept that the device they own is now controlled to some degree by IT.

"Employees have to accept the fact that if they want the privilege of accessing corporate email and calendaring, they'll have to accept the fact that IT might kill their device and wipe it if they lose or misplace it."

Users should take responsibility for backing up their software or entertainment content, he said.

"Once they come into the corporate fold, IT - quite reasonably - wants to be able to control any sensitive data on that device," he said.

Fleet deals

Simpson doesn't expect any fleet deals soon for the new iPhone or HTC Desire: "The telcos are not really set up to support fleets of phones like that".

Fleet discounts were a thing of the past except for Blackberry, which was "a bit of a different category".

"It was always intended as an enteprise device in the first place.

"You might not necessarily get a fleet deal from a telco but some of the systems integrators or the managed service providers who manage Blackberry for you can provide fleet deals."

What do you think? Is iPhone or Android ready for the enterprise? Comment below...

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