Slim MDM limits iPhone3G for business

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Amongst all the hoopla surrounding the arrival of the 3G iPhone, it has become clear that it's a credible business performer. But limited mobile device management (MDM) capabilities will make it difficult for enterprises to support or deploy iPhones.

Apples' new iPhone 3G has overcome many of the business shortcomings of the original device, such as lack of 3G network connectivity and the inability to synchronize with Microsoft Exchange. Apple is targeting prosumers who want to use the iPhone for work and pleasure and they will be looking to access enterprise applications when in the office. This inevitably opens up more risk to the business, particularly in terms of data leakage, virus introduction and unauthorized access.

Although the browsing experience may win plaudits, enterprises are more interested in security and MDM. Market watchers Current Analysis has had a look at this in a recent intelligence report. It says that Apple has gone part of the way to appeasing business management with simple mobile device management (MDM) capabilities for the iPhone such as remote wipe, PIN policies and data encryption. These are offered via ActiveSync, which provides the wherewithal to sync with Outlook and Exchange.

However, CA warns that the iPhone's MDM capability is still very basic, and doesn't offer anywhere near the functionality of competing devices such as the Blackberry. There is no granular policy management, application blacklisting, feature control or reporting functionality, for example. It also isn't compatible with other MDM standards such as the Open Mobile Alliance's (OMA) device management (DM). And third parties are limited in what advanced enterprise management tools they can provide because Apple has not yet provided an API into the iPhone's MDM functionality.

Current Analysis says that Apple needs to allow MDM vendors to interface with the iPhone 3G for MDM and security and it suggests that a good solution would be to use an OMA DM client. Without better MDM, enterprises will be reluctant to deploy or even support the iPhone 3G. In the interim MDM specialists need to find work-arounds so that they can support iPhone for their customers, just as they had to do with Blackberries.

As it stands for businesses, the iPhone is better suited to SMB users attracted by hosted Exchange services. But if Apple has any ambitions in the enterprise market, it is really going to have to address the iPhone's limited MDM capabilities.

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.