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

The iPhone is not alone in this weakness: Palm’s WebOS has already been patched (Version 1.0.4) to cover up a flaw that allowed users to install unsigned (and therefore unauthorised) applications, and users quickly found upon Android’s release last fall that root access could be gained easily due to an erroneous boot instruction.

The point isn’t that these bugs exist (as they have and will occur in every platform); the point is that there is no second line of defense available for enterprises to ensure mobile device security — nor will there likely be one any time soon.

No mobile UC on the iPhone

Another area where the lack of background applications will hurt the iPhone will be in the integration of mobile UC (unified communications) services, particularly applications that leverage presence or real-time communications such as VOIP (voice over IP). While Apple’s new background notification system may prove adequate for dealing with text-based services like instant messaging, such notifications will likely not be satisfactory to provide soon-enough notification to VOIP users getting an inbound voice (or someday video) call.

A third-party networking solution may be able to give the iPhone a four-digit extension on a corporate PBX by forwarding the device’s cell phone number, but connecting to an iPhone via VOIP is currently out of the question.

Because they do support applications running in the background, WebOS- and Android-based devices would be much better alternatives as corporate UC handsets, but with these devices, the question instead becomes one of market penetration.

Third-party UC application vendors aren’t going to consider developing for upcoming platforms until a critical mass of devices is out in the market, preferably in the hands of corporate users. The iPhone has probably hit the necessary level of penetration, but other devices are not close enough yet.

In the meantime, these types of services — as exemplified by cellular-to-voice-over-Wi-Fi fixed mobile convergence solutions like those from Agito and DiVitas — will remain the province of platforms with much wider worldwide adoption and support for background applications, such as Windows Mobile and Nokia running Symbian.

Even Research In Motion’s extremely enterprise-friendly BlackBerry platform has been somewhat late to this level of convergence, as Agito just recently announced FMC support for RIM devices.

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