Making the iPhone a killer business device

The device has potential, but Apple needs to meet corporate needs

4. Develop direct push options for platforms other than Exchange

Apple's decision to rely on Exchange as the sole method for direct push and other enterprise features for the iPhone was a logical choice. Exchange is widely deployed, and it already offers support for direct push, groupware functionality and security policies that Apple would need to offer to make the iPhone an enterprise-caliber smart phone.

Using Exchange also meant that Apple didn't have to create a server solution of its own for the iPhone, as Research In Motion (RIM) provides with the BlackBerry Enterprise Messaging Server. On the flip side, even organizations without Exchange get access to push mail and related groupware features under RIM's model. Ironically, by relying on Exchange, Apple excludes its own Leopard Server and its suite of calendar and collaborative tools.

Providing a broader solution could give smaller organizations -- or those that already have legacy solutions such as Novell's GroupWise -- options that are now available only via Exchange. And it could help position the iPhone to better compete with RIM.

Ideally, Apple will provide a solution for the variety of other groupware and collaborative tools on the market in the upcoming Snow Leopard Server, which is expected to boast enhanced collaborative tools, its own level of Exchange integration, and at least some iPhone-specific collaborative features. But options already exist for integrating the iPhone's direct push features without Exchange; for instance, NotifyLink integrates with a range of mobile devices -- including the iPhone -- and mail server and groupware platforms.

5. Offer a unified in-box

Another area where RIM's BlackBerry stands out against the iPhone is with its unified in-box. The iPhone maintains separate sets of mail folders for every configured e-mail account. While this can keep mail better organized, it's a pain for users accessing mail from two or more accounts.

When new mail arrives, users have to navigate from a single account's in-box back to the accounts list, and then root around among the other accounts to find new messages. This can be time-consuming and frustrating. The problem could be solved by simply providing a single in-box or even a single set of mail folders.

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