Multiple new technology choices available for businesses make it quite a task to differentiate between the hype and what is actually valuable. But it is important to recognize the value that can exist within the hype, and this happens to be the case when it comes to enterprise adoption of Apple’s new iPhone 5, one of the much-hyped devices of 2012.
There was a lot of buzz around Apple’s launch of the iPhone 5 that was focused mostly on the customer market. Now that the hoopla is dying down, it’s time to discuss the potential impact of the new iPhone iteration on enterprise mobility. So the question arises – Is the iPhone 5 right for your enterprise?
“It’s good to separate two distinct parts of the iPhone 5 to discuss about its significance to enterprises: iOS – the underlying operating system that enables much of the enterprise connectivity and iPhone 5 –the latest iPhone hardware from Apple,” remarked IHS iSuppli Senior Analyst Wayne Lam in an interview with International Business Times.
Lam says that among the 200 new features in the latest iOS 6 firmware, there are a few enterprise specific ones, including enhancements to the mail client, which can improve the overall user experience and draw the interest of the CIOs.
“There are many facets of enterprise support that were incorporated into iOS. I believe the most significant improvements were implemented in iOS 4 some 2 years earlier that allowed for better device management, security and compatibility,” says Lam. “For enterprises that have already implemented those features based on iOS 4 and iOS 5, the upgrade to iOS 6 and iPhone 5 is pretty straight forward.”
Apart from apps like Passbook that can be helpful for travelling and latte-sipping executives to manage things like arranging flight tickets and the sorts, iOS 6 comes with some other features that are more office-bound in nature, including the global proxy mode, lost mode, 3G FaceTime and the added password protection. (Click here for a detailed video by Bitzer Mobile's Andy Smith.)
When it comes to why CIOs will be interested in the iPhone 5, it is a fact that the device is the latest and arguably the most prominent new smartphone release of 2012. The iPhone 5 will drive consumer demand and that translates to a workforce that is clamoring for enterprise support so that they can use their device for both personal and professional purposes, which is essentially the core of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement.
The BYOD Boom
At a time when IT departments are busy making new policies and security protocols, the number of users bringing their own mobile devices to work instead of or along with the enterprise-mandated devices continues to increase. Although there are mixed feelings about the BYOD trend, a recent Gartner report mentioned that it heralds “the single most radical shift in the economics of client computing for business since PCs invaded the workplace.”
“The entire BYOD movement is like letting loose the genie from the bottle,” remarks Lam. “Now that the enterprise users are setting the agenda for the type of mobilized devices used in the enterprise environment, IT departments are now catering to the demands of their users and adopting tools to allow their workforce to be productive, irrespective of the mobile devices they want to use.”
“Some platforms will be easier than the others to management but I believe the point is mute since the purchasing decision of mobilized devices has now left the confines of the CIO and has gone into the hands of each worker,” Lam explains.
However, despite its significance to enterprises, the iPhone 5 is not a game changer. Lam argues that enterprise support is the province of the software platform (iOS 6) and not the device (iPhone 5). Although the iPhone 5 can drive tremendous consumer demand, it's the software's capability that will dictate it's interoperability with enterprise.
Achieving Enterprise Readiness Is Tough
Lam believes that while weighing smartphones against each other, it’s important to put enterprise readiness in comparison to other standards such as 3G or 4G.
Nowadays, performing wireless connectivity is one of the top most features that users want in their phones. But in case of enterprise readiness, not all smartphones are equally capable or able. The reason is that, as opposed to 3G and 4G standards, enterprises are all different. Some have very stringent security policies, while some are very lax. Some use hundreds of different access policies while some use very few.
Therefore, Lam believes that “it’s tremendously difficult to create a set of enterprise ready software for all the different permutations of enterprise security that is deployed.”
In this regard, Samsung has taken the initiative with its SAFE (Samsung Approved For Enterprise) program to implement a standard for Android. The SAFE-branded Galaxy S3 supports a full suite of enterprise-ready features and capabilities with support for 338 IT Policies that includes on-device AES-256 bit encryption, enhanced support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and support for industry-leading Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions.
According to Lam, Apple is the sole enterprise solutions provider for iOS. Its answer to SAFE is the extensive provision of security enhancements that it puts in place inside every iOS device. (Check this May report from Apple for more information.)
Mobile Ecosystem Moves Faster
So how fast can enterprises deploy the iPhone 5 running on iOS 6? Can there be any delay like we have seen in terms Windows 7 overtaking Windows XP?
“The mobile ecosystem/industry moves at a much higher cadence than traditional PC industry,” says Lam. “Microsoft may update their flagship PC operating system every 4 to 5 years, whereas the major players in the mobile space (Apple and Google) are releasing major updates on an annual basis. Therefore, innovation comes at a faster clip in the mobile space.”
“However, with that said, creating enterprise-ready mobile devices is still a case where mobilized devices are still conforming to the enterprise standards... that is to say, the burden of providing enterprise compatibility falls on the smartphone platform providers,” Lam adds.
Unlike the mobile industry, which is very dynamic and fast moving, punctuated by quick successions of wireless technology (2G to 3G to 4G), PC industry is based on continuing legacy support, protecting capital investments and ROI (return on investment), etc.
While the upcoming Windows 8 release will be significant, even that significance will not force most enterprises to upgrade their PCs right away. Most PC industry analysts predict that the bulk of the adoption will come in 2013 or 2014 when enterprise will have an opportunity to work out the bugs and set forth an implementation plan.
On the other hand, in the mobile world, especially for iOS, the uptake in new platforms such as going from iOS 4 to iOS 5 and now from iOS 5 to iOS 6 is done at a much faster clip. “Because most consumers will be upgrading to the latest hardware, containing the new software anyways, this uptake is mostly taken care of at the device level,” says Lam.