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iPhone gains smidge of enterprise cred

The Apple iPhone's credibility as an enterprise-class device continues to inch ahead. Perhaps the smartphone's most promising enterprise characteristics currently lie in the thousand or so new APIs that Apple has just released for it.

Apple made the beta version of the iPhone OS 3.0 available last week to the development community and said the OS would be commercially available for end users this summer.

“These [APIs] give developers more flexibility to create business and productivity applications,” says Tim Renowden, research analyst at Ovum in London. He acknowledges that it will ultimately be up to third-party developers to enhance the device’s enterprise application appeal, but that “Apple has improved the tools that are available” in its latest SDK.

There will also be some benefits in terms of the usability improvements. Renowden points to the software’s new (and long wished for) cut-and-paste feature in particular and notes that “wider adoption of the landscape on-screen keyboard will be useful to enterprise users who rely heavily on e-mail and other text-heavy applications.”

Last summer, the iPhone gained Microsoft Exchange integration capabilities, which further drew the device into the enterprise environment. Still, the iPhone has a ways to go to suit most CIOs, primarily because of a scarcity of centralized tools that would allow an IT department to control and secure it.

Apple has made no new announcements around improved security policies or device management. Some analysts believe that, without the ability to encrypt stored data and to remotely wipe data from a lost or stolen device, the iPhone remains a consumer-class device. Others, though, consider any device making its way into the enterprise – welcome or not – an enterprise device that organizations must figure out how to deal with.

There are a few third-party mobile device management products that are starting to help manage and troubleshoot iPhone devices.

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