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Tuesday, April 24, 2007, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)

AT&T to market iPhone to business customers?

AT&T, the wireless carrier which recently consumed Cingular, is reportedly undergoing preparations to market Apple Inc.'s upcoming iPhone device to business customers in addition to average consumers.

The wireless carrier recently decided that the first Apple mobile handset will appeal to business users and is now working hard to ensure that its back-end enterprise billing and support systems will accommodate the device when it ships, the IDG News Service reported Monday evening.

Analysts, however, aren't seeing eye-to-eye on the move. They're calling it a big mistake."

If AT&T announces plans to market the phone to enterprise customers, "we'd be against it," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner. "We'd immediately tell our customers that'd be a very serious mistake.

Dulaney argues that regardless of who the handset maker is, if it's their initial foray into mobile phone development, business customers should stand clear. "Building a phone is one of the most difficult things to do," he said.

Business customers should also be weary of the iPhone's various other shortcomings, the Gartner analyst said. For instance, he notes that it lacks a physical keyboard, which will make it difficult to dial while driving. The device also runs a closed version of the Mac OS X operating system, meaning enterprises won't be able to extend their corporate applications to the device.

Furthermore, Dulaney said, iPhone does not include a user-replacable battery.

"You'd be crazy to buy without that," he said.