The iPhone Is Not a Smart Phone - 07 Aug 2007

I've been testing Apple's hype-tacular iPhone since the company released it to the public in a media orgy on June 29. And although some of what the iPhone does is truly fantastic, none of the demo-friendly technology Apple employed in the device is particularly compelling for business users. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the iPhone isn't a smart phone at all, at least not in the conventional sense. Instead, you might think of it as the cell phone equivalent of the Media Center PC you might put in your den. Sure, it's superficially similar to the PCs you use for work. But you really just use the Media Center PC, like the iPhone, for fun, and not for work. If that's not obvious to you, please read on.

It doesn't take a month and a half with the iPhone to understand its limitations for business use. The device is completely incompatible with Microsoft Exchange Server out of the box--let alone other managed corporate email solutions--unless you enable IMAP support, which many businesses won't allow. Yes, there are third-party solutions popping up for Exchange compatibility, but these are from smaller, less-well-known companies, and it's unlikely that anyone currently using Windows Mobile or Blackberry devices will want to make the switch based on the performance and reliability of such a service.

Indeed, the iPhone isn't centrally managed in any way and has to be activated and synced through iTunes, Apple's consumer-oriented media management application. That may be fine for the kids at home, but it doesn't support any form of corporate deployment. It is, in other words, a complete non-starter in the enterprise.

On the few iPhone applications that are currently available--you can't even install and download new applications, let alone restrict the ones that are on it by default--you'll see plenty of snazzy zooming and resizing effects, all triggered by simple and fairly intuitive finger swipes and squeezes. But many of the built-in applications are almost comically consumer-oriented. YouTube? Seriously? And while zipping through a photo or music collection might be entertaining at first, how often will you really do such a thing?

Those iPhone applications that might be of interest to business travelers are otherwise constrained. For example, the native Google Maps application is excellent, but because the iPhone doesn't include or support GPS, it's just eye candy. The device's synchronization capabilities are pretty limited, and unless you're using Exchange with Outlook clients and are willing to enable IMAP, the iPhone's email functionality will go unused. Calendar and Contacts should work fine, but there's no Tasks feature on the iPhone at all.

I guess the point here is to not get sucked in by the hype. Just remember, the iPhone is not a smart phone. It's not a device that can integrate with the Exchange Server you're likely using, it can't be managed in any way, meaningful or otherwise, and offers more in the way of consumer niceties than corporate features. It's pretty yes, and intelligently designed. It offers interesting, even occasionally stunning mobile technologies. But it's not a smart phone. And once you come to the understanding, you'll realize that it can never replace the solutions you're currently using. Repeat after me, the iPhone is not a smart phone.

Of Admin Packs, Vista, and Windows 2008
I also wanted to answer a question I've been getting repeatedly from readers about Microsoft's plans for administering Windows Server machines from Windows PCs. Historically, Microsoft has offered an Admin Pack you could install on Windows PCs to facilitate this process. The advent of Windows Vista complicated this process, although Microsoft eventually shipped a Windows 2003 Admin Pack patch that improves compatibility with Windows Vista ( ). For Windows Server 2008, things are changing: Microsoft plans to support that OS with the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT), which integrate with Windows 2008's Server Manager. A RSAT client for Windows should ship around the same time as Vista SP1 and Windows 2008 in the first half of 2008, Microsoft tells me.

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