iPhone, Android, Pre: Are The New Smartphones Business-Ready?

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New smartphones have impressed consumers, but the iPhone, Android and Palm Pre still lack business features

Consumers have seized on the new wave of smartphones and mobile operating systems. They can boost productivity, but the gaps in their security and management could still keep them out of the office.

Recent upgrades to both Apple’s iPhone OS and Google’s Android operating system, as well as the release of the Palm WebOS mobile operating system on the new Pre, have drawn another sizable wave of new consumers to intelligent smartphones.

Given the obvious computing potential of these platforms, the rich application development environments attached to each and their enterprise-ready features, companies may be ready not only to let users attach these devices to corporate resources, but to invest in the platforms internally.

Business needs = Microsoft synch?

But these enterprises must at the same time take a hard look at each of these platforms to ensure that they not only meet today’s mobile computing needs, but also have the capability (or a clear road map) to interoperate with other technology initiatives in progress to fulfill the needs of tomorrow, as well.

Ironically, the enterprise argument for viability of each of these mobile operating systems revolves around their adoption of a Microsoft technology, EAS (Exchange ActiveSync). Baked directly into Palm’s WebOS and Apple’s iPhone OS — and added to Android via third-party implementations such as Emtrace’s Moxier Mail — EAS for each of the platforms effectively fills first-generation mobile device gaps for corporate users: the secure and timely delivery of mail and the two-way synchronisation of calendar and contacts.

Depending on the EAS implementation within these mobile operating systems, EAS may also help alleviate next-generation corporate needs by delivering certain management functions, such as remote wipe or policy delivery and enforcement.

With the newly available iPhone 3.0 software upgrade, Apple is ahead of both Android and WebOS with its integration into Microsoft’s data centre solutions. The iPhone can now enforce password usage and settings like password complexity, expirations and history.

But this reliance on EAS won’t solve all the enterprise management needs for these devices, as issues such as firmware management and encryption enforcement lie outside EAS’ scope.

Despite the iPhone’s recent gains in enterprise usability with iPhone 3.0, future firmware updates are still delivered by hooking a device up to a computer running iTunes. On the other hand, WebOS and Android devices both receive their updates over the air directly from the operator or hardware manufacturer — taking upgrades out of the hands of IT administrators completely.

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